PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty Course – What You Need to Know

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Last year, PADI® launched a new pro-level specialty: The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course. This new program provides PADI Professionals with additional tools to help students of varied abilities meet course performance requirements. PADI’s Adaptive Techniques Specialty does not create a new set of standards for existing PADI programs. Instead, instructors learn how a simple technique change can allow many divers to meet performance requirements and earn a PADI certification.

PADI Course Director Jeff Currer was a member of the advisory group which developed the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course and he explains how every PADI Pro can benefit from learning adaptive techniques.

“We often get set in our teaching style over time, and the Adaptive Techniques Specialty course helps you see the standards in a fresh light. The course teaches how to adapt to the student, while still holding the line on performance requirements and expands the instructor’s tool box in ways that can be applied to all students.”

Brent George, a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) and adaptive techniques course participant said, “Learning how a paraplegic might perform the confined water CESA successfully will definitely help me teach that skill to all divers.”

Jeremy Wilton, a PADI Instructor Development Course Staff Instructor and course participant said, “I will use what I learned in every class I teach, including pro-level courses.”

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Rob Currer, a PADI Master Instructor and PADI AmbassaDiver, was also part of the adaptive specialty advisory group. He notes: “According to the World Health Organization, there are around one billion people on the planet who are living with some sort of disability. So truthfully, most PADI Pros are already working with people who could benefit from adaptive techniques; they just don’t realize it.”

“Even people with a more typical ability range don’t all learn the same,” Rob continued. “Every diver is unique; they struggle with some skills and not with others. PADI’s Adaptive Techniques Specialty helps pros look at a PADI Standard and see the flexibility that already exists there. They learn how to easily implement techniques to capitalize on the strengths of their students and help each one overcome their unique challenges.”

The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty includes exercises to help PADI Pros gain a greater understanding of the physical limitations some students face. Course participant Jeff Pettigrew, a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI), described how he came to understand the tired diver tow in a new way.

“We have a hemiplegic divemaster candidate who cannot use one of her arms and has limited use of one leg. When I tried to do the fin push tired diver tow as a hemiplegic, I had new found respect for the challenges she faces, and overcomes!” said Pettigrew.

Rob echoed Pettigrew’s sentiments regarding the abilities of those who are considered disabled. “There will be skills in which your student divers need more assistance, but these people are not really ‘disabled.’  In fact, these students are incredibly able, they just approach certain tasks differently from a typical diver. Most instructors are really surprised at just how capable their adaptive students are.”

Course participant Roger Shields, a PADI OWSI and medic in the United States Army, described how the course helped him recognize his inherent adaptive teaching skills. “I have my own physical and cognitive issues, but taking the adaptive techniques specialty helped me realize I was already adapting my style for myself! When we practiced adaptive techniques to accomplish some of the skills, I realized that I had a lot to offer others who could benefit from my experience,” he said.

For instructors and divemasters interested in working with disabled divers, but hesitant to take the next step, Rob says, “Dive on in!” He advises PADI Pros to earn the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course certification first – to build a solid base of skills and knowledge. Next, team teach with an experienced pro to help build confidence in your skills. Then, when you feel comfortable, start setting up your own programs.

“It can definitely be intimidating at first. What if there’s a problem?” Rob said. “Well, what do you do if any student has a problem? You help them fix it. It’s the same with adaptive teaching, you problem solve, and as a PADI Pro you are already a pro at that!”

Jeff Currer, who is also the co-founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Patriots for Disabled Divers, shed some light on common misconceptions about working with individuals with disabilities. “In my experience, there are two common misconceptions: that there is more liability when working with those with disabilities, and that there is no business case for shops to provide the training.”

“Both are wrong,” Jeff said. “The liability does not change, you always have the duty to care. Training may take more pool time and require smaller classes, but there is no reason why you cannot cost the course appropriately. People will seek you out to get the experience and the opportunity to do something amazing. It will boost store credentials with the able-bodied community as well.”

There is enormous value for dive store staff as well. Jeremy Wilton, a PADI IDC Staff Instructor and course participant said, “I have a number of friends who are combat injured and this course opened my eyes on how to adapt my delivery and still meet standards. One of my friends is a paraplegic with limited arm strength, and the techniques we practiced to conduct the confined water CESA will definitely be applicable when I teach him! I cannot wait to get him in the water.”

For PADI Professionals who are already HSA Instructors, the two programs are very complimentary. Rob shared his perspective, “As both a PADI and HSA instructor, I can honestly say that carrying both ratings allows me to give the widest range of care to my adaptive divers. It allows me to have the flexibility to use the program that best meets a student diver’s individual needs.

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If a diver can meet PADI Standards and earn their PADI card, they can be certified under the most recognized brand in diving and freed from some of the additional limitations that an HSA certification might place on them. There are going to be divers, like many quadriplegics, who are not physically capable of meeting PADI Open Water Diver standards and thus need a program like HSA to earn a dive certification,” Rob said.

“PADI has always been supportive of divers with disabilities, and the adaptive techniques course is there to bring that home,” added Jeff Currer. “The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course provides PADI Professionals with the credentials to work with divers who never thought they would be able to dive and earn a certification from the best known and respected certification agency in the world, and the confidence to provide that training with the backing of PADI. Very powerful.”

Learn More or Enroll

PADI Divemasters or PADI Master Freedivers who have completed EFR Primary and Secondary Care course within 24 months are eligible to take the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course. Learn more about the PADI Adaptive Techniques specialty for PADI Professionals, or view Patriot Scuba’s course schedule.

For divers, PADI offers the Adaptive Support Diver Specialty course. This course helps certified divers learn how to better assist a certified buddy who may have some form of challenge explore the underwater world. View Patriot Scuba’s Adaptive Support Diver course schedule.

Divers, pros and dive shop owners can support the efforts of Patriots for Disabled Divers. Learn how you can work with disabled veterans, become an affiliate store, and other ways to support their work.

PADI AmbassaDiver Cody Unser Gives Divers with Disabilities a New Perspective

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Cody Unser First Step Foundation’s (CUFSF) quality of life motto is “Changing Lives One Dive at a Time.” Embodying the Health and Wellness Pillar of PADI’s Four Pillars of Change initiative, a short film showcasing the inspirational story of CUFSF founder and PADI AmbassaDiverTM Cody Unser was recently released. Unser and her CUFSF dive team provide participants with spinal cord-related paralysis with scuba instruction and PADI® Open Water certification to improve quality of life.

“Scuba is that catalyst that can transform people’s perceptions about what’s possible, and that people with disabilities want to not only live life, but thrive in it!” Unser says.

In June, CUFSF took their message to the No Barriers Summit in north Lake Tahoe, California, USA, where Unser’s My PADI video was filmed to share her story of transcending barriers through diving.

On 12-13 August, Unser and her volunteer dive team conducted a PADI Open Water Diver course for the physical and occupational therapists from the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, along with an introductory scuba event for the institute’s patients. Their goal: to integrate more medical professionals into the world of diving, while showing participants with spinal cord injuries that anything is possible.

“My hope is that the work that we do at the Cody Unser First Step Foundation with our Adaptive Scuba Program will help motivate and inspire the world to become more accepting and adapting for people with disabilities,” Unser says.

Adding support for Unser’s work, and other organizations like CUFSF, the new PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course will launch in November. This new program teaches PADI Pros to help people with varying abilities meet PADI course performance requirements. In addition, the program includes a PADI Adaptive Support Diver course for divers interested in learning how to support dive buddies using adaptive techniques. PADI’s approach to diver education has always been inclusive: Anyone who meets prerequisites is welcome to participate. This new program aims increase awareness of adaptive techniques that focus on what scuba participants can do rather than on what they can’t.

Since becoming paralyzed at the age of 12 due to transverse myelitis, Unser has worked to show others how powerful adaptive sports can be for the health and quality of life of people with paralyzing injuries and conditions. By convincing her doctors about the beneficial neurological and psychological effects of scuba diving on paralysis, Unser has demonstrated to the medical world that diving can promote healing.

“Having lost sensation and function in my lower body, diving made me feel whole again. It’s that feeling of freedom and independence that made me want to share it with others who, like me, doubted and feared life with a paralyzed body on land,” Unser says. “Now that doubt and fear doesn’t exist!”

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