2504 – Developmental, Brain and SCI Disorders

Intermediate / Pool Workshop


Washington, DC / Friday, February 14, 2020 – 8:00-11:00 am – 3.0 credit hours

(Classroom: 8:00-9:30 am / Indoor Pool: 9:30-11:00 am)


Faculty: Rachel Mertins, PT, DPT / Lisa Warwick-Arndt, BS, PTA


COURSE DESCRIPTION: Learn about the use of aquatic therapy to achieve functional goals for children and adults diagnosed with disabilities and disorders of the brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal system, focusing on spinal cord injury. There will be an introduction to spinal cord injury and related diagnoses and the indications and contraindications commonly associated with this population. Techniques will be demonstrated and participants will be able to practice those techniques and apply them in their practice. The purpose will be to expand the knowledge base of practitioners who work with people with neurological insult.



1)  Define spinal cord injury (SCI) and related diagnoses and list typical effects and complications associated with neurological insult.

2)  Describe the properties and benefits of aquatic therapy and how they can be applied to those with neurological impairments.

3)  Identify indications, contraindications, and precautions for aquatics with those suffering from disabilities and disorders of the brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal system. Diagnoses, including but not limited to, spinal cord injuries (traditional paraplegia, tetraplegia, acute flaccid myelitis, and multiple sclerosis), cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, traumatic brain injury, spina bifida, neurogenetic developmental delay, osteogenesis imperfect, and brachial plexus injuries.

4)  Explain various treatment options for those with neurological impairments in an aquatic environment including:         • Tone management

                     • Stretching

                     • Strengthening

                     • Balance training

                     • Swimming

                     • Functional mobility training

                     • Gait training

                     • Aquatic locomotor training

5)  Review current evidence-based practice for aquatics in the neurological population.

6)  Discuss the gaps in recent literature regarding aquatics with those neurologically impaired and brainstorm ways in which one can add to the literature.


FACULTY: Rachel Mertins, PT, DPT, has been a physical therapist with the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury (ICSCI) since September 2008. She received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore in 2008. She was Aquatic Therapy and Rehabilitation Institute certified (ATRIC) from March of 2009 through 2014, transitioning to a Certificate in Aquatic Physical Therapy Clinical Competency (CAPTCC) in July of 2015. Her clinical interests include proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), functional electrical stimulation (FES), and aquatics. She published two articles in the Journal of Aquatic Physical Therapy (JAPT) in 2014 and 2017, and has created a webinar for physicaltherapy.com regarding aquatics and SCI in 2016. She is experienced with treating as a land and aquatic therapist for children and adults with a variety of neuromuscular diagnoses, including use of partial body weight supported gait training.


Lisa Warwick-Arndt, BS, PTA, has been a physical therapist assistant with the Kennedy Krieger Institute since 2009. She received her Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S. degree from Anne Arundel Community College in 2009, Bachelors in Public Health from American Public University in 2018, and is pursuing a Masters in Public Health from American Public University. She received a pediatric certificate from the Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute in 2012. Clinical interests include gait mechanics/orthotics, and aquatics. She has had a poster accepted at the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals, 2013 on functional mobility and aquatics; and a platform presentation at the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy conference, 2019.