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Sensory Activities for Summer

Sensory Play for Summer

Sensory play and multi-sensory approaches to learning have been incorporated throughout many learning opportunities to encourage versatile growth and development. Providing children with an opportunity to learn via tactile, auditory, visual, and even movement input has proven to show faster incorporation and carry-over of skills across environments. Sensory teaching techniques also stimulate learning by encouraging children to some or all of their senses to do the following:

  • Gather information about an assignment using both visual information and auditory informationSensory Activities for Summer
  • Synthesize and analyze material
  • Solve logic-based problems with multiple perspectives
  • Develop and utilize problem-solving skills
  • Use non-verbal reasoning skills
  • Understand and make connections between concepts
  • Store and recall information easily and efficiently

These skills can be cultivated during the summer months as well. The summer provides an array of its own sensory experiences that can be used to promote sensory learning while out of school. Here are some activities for the while family to encourage whole body learning and development.

 Sensory play activities for summer:

  1. Play a game of eye-spy outside! You can make it more of a challenge by using clues of size, shape, or clues of purpose.
  2. Play pictionary on the sidewalks with chalk, for a tactile and visual experience.
  3. Enjoy water play. Play a game of slip-and-slide while trying to retrieve an object on the way down; providing sensory play, motor planning and visual-motor integration skills.
  4. DIY play-doh is great for tactile play and executive functioning skills to follow a recipe.
  5. Make tactile balloons. Fill balloons with different textures (beans, beads, sand, rice, play-doh, coffee grinds, marbles, water, hairgel, corn starch and water mix) For more fun, place balloons in a tub if water, then guess and write what is inside each one!
  6. Have a Hippity Hop scavenger hunt.
  7. Play a game of edible shapes. Gather foods that have distinctive shapes (ex. cheese puff balls, gold fish, marshmallows, starburst, Hershey kisses, pretzel sticks tortilla chips). Blindfold the children playing and have them guess both the shape and the food!
  8. Create an obstacle course on a playground for motor planning, proprioceptive input and vestibular input. For added fun have your child draw out or write the steps of the course prior to completing it.
  9. Do Spice painting. Mix white glue with a bit of water to dilute it and add some spices (no hot spices). The activity will provide various aromas and will have different textures when dried.
  10. Visit the beach and play hangman, tic-tac-toe or write messages in the sand.


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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

sensory strategies for swimming

Sensory Strategies for Swimmers

The water is cold! My swimsuit is too tight! It is too loud! The water hurts!

For many adults, summers spent lounging by the pool are some of the fondest memories. Swimming,sensory strategies for swimming whether it be at a pool, lake or ocean, and learning to swim, is considered a right of passage. The activity provides an array of learning experiences, including gross motor skills, balance, core strength, endurance, sensory processing opportunities and social interactions. However, with the many sensory demands that are involved in swimming, the task can become overwhelming for some children. Below is information regarding the many sensory systems that require integration within the brain while participating in a swim lesson.

Sensory Systems and Strategies for Swimming:

Sensory System How the Sensory System is Affected by Swimming Suggestions to Promote Processing of this Sensation
Motor Planning Motor planning is the groundwork for sensory integration. Swimming is an opportunity for your child to learn motor planning for symmetrical and asymmetrical movements, bilateral movements, crossing midline, learning to invert the head, and separation of upper body and lower body movements. ·         Practice riding a bicycle·         Practice reciprocal arm movements while lying prone on a scooter board.·         Jumping Jacks

·         Somersaults

 

Proprioception The ability to sense your body in space and movement of the body and its parts. Proprioceptive difficulty for swimming can present with little motor control, difficulty in motor planning, difficulty in modulating the sense of pressure and postural instability. ·         Water play in the bathtub.·         Heavy work and deep pressure input to the legs, arms and torso: log rolls, burrito rolls, nig bear hugs
Vestibular The vestibular system is controlled by the inner ear, mainly the movement of fluid within the three ear canals, and is the information gathering and feedback source for movements. All other sensations are processed in relationship to basic vestibular information. Swimming can be difficult in terms of vestibular processing due to head inversion, head turning and buoyancy. ·         Somersaults·         Swinging·         Jumping

·         Scooter board activities in different planes of movements: prone, supine, kneeling, criss-cross apple sauce,

·         Spinning

·         Log rolls

 

Tactile Water provides 600-700 times more resistance to the body than air. Movement through the water is a full body experience, thus providing tactile stimulation to every inch of the body. Water can also provide information regarding temperature. In addition, the act of swimming provides tactile input through the wearing of swimsuits, which can feel tight and restrictive in some cases. ·         Water play with warm water and with cold water·         Wearing tight clothing, similar to spandex or Under Armour·         Wearing swim suits and swim trunks as play clothing to get accustomed to the fabric; wear during dry and wet activities

·         Slip and slide activity

·

Auditory The amplitude of sounds underwater are affected by the pressure, which can cause a higher sensitivity to these amplitudes. This means, as sounds across air can be managed and integrated into your sensory system, the same sound under water can feel louder, causing discomfort in the ear drum. ·         Try wearing ear plugs while under water·         Play a sound game prior to swimming; place one ear in a small bucket of water and have one ear exposed to the air, listen to the same sound both above and below the water

Swimming can be both challenging and fun, but know your child’s limits as well. Continued exposure in a controlled and safe environment can help to establish safe and error-free learning along with confidence!


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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

what to expect in an occupational therapy evaluation

What To Expect In A Pediatric Occupational Therapy Evaluation

Whether your child has already been referred to an occupational therapist (OT) or you’re simply wondering if this would be a helpful route, there are a few things to know going into an occupational therapy evaluation. Occupational therapists are concerned about an individual’s level of participation in daily activities that are important to him or her. For many children and their families, this means that an OT will be curious about a child’s skills related to self-help, play, peer relationships, academics, and self–regulation. An occupational therapist will want to know what is important to you and set attainable goals that reflect priorities of the child and the family. Not all practitioners will gather this information exactly the same way but the general components of an Occupational Therapy evaluation will include background and developmental information, interview with parents or caregivers, assessment and observations directly with the child, and finally a comprehensive report that summarizes information gathered and sets goals for therapy based on those results.

Background and Developmental Information

Many therapists will request information on birth and developmental history prior to meeting for the first time. If youwhat to expact in an occupational therapy evaluation are able to provide other records that you believe would be helpful, such as reports from previous assessments, teacher summaries, or other pertinent medical history, include these in the evaluation process to generate a complete picture.

Caregiver Interview

Interview with the parent or primary caregiver is an extremely important component of the evaluation process. No one knows your child better than you. The information you provide is vital for identifying priorities and setting realistic goals that will make a difference in your child’s life. The occupational therapist will guide the conversation by asking about your main concerns and what you hope to accomplish through occupational therapy. Depending on the issues you identify, she will want to know more about your child’s adaptive behavior habits such as level of independence with self-care, skill level with fine and gross motor tasks, social and play skills, self-regulation abilities, and executive functioning. The information you provide will allow the therapist to choose the most appropriate assessment tools in the next portion of the evaluation.

Assessment and Observation with the Child

Once the OT has gathered necessary information from you, she will spend time with your child. This time is focused on building rapport, utilizing standardized assessments to identify developmental skill levels, and completing clinical observations that inform her of your child’s motor and sensory development, self-regulation abilities, and executive functioning skills. Specific skills that may be assessed include:

  • Visual motor and visual perceptual skills
  • Fine motor development related to dexterity, strength, grasp efficiency, range of motion, and bilateral use (how well the hands work together)
  • Gross motor strength, endurance, and coordination
  • Motor planning abilities
  • Self-help skills related to dressing, grooming, and feeding
  • Executive functioning skills related to attention, organization, flexibility, etc.
  • Self-regulation (how a child calms themselves or adapts to their environment)
  • Sensory processing abilities (how a child processes what he sees, hears, feels, etc. and produces an appropriate response)

Evaluation Report

The final piece of the evaluation process is reviewing the report, which summarizes all information gathered, the clinical impressions of the therapist, and treatment goals that address identified concerns while utilizing a child and family’s strengths. Often this report will also include general recommendations and a time frame for the treatment plan before a reassessment is warranted.

NSPT offers occupational therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

7-minute workout for kids

The Benefits of the 7-Minute Workout for Kids

 

 

 

In May 2013, the New York Times reported on a research-based high-intensity workout for adults that lasts only 7-minutes! It boasts 12 exercises that only last 30 seconds each, with little to no equipment involved. It sounds too good to be true, but there is quite a bit of exercise science to back up the findings. High-intensity interval training, which is the basis of this workout, is a form of endurance training.

Needless to say, I’ve tried out the 7-minute workout myself. It is a pretty tough 7 minutes. These exercises are meant to be hard. But they are also over after 7 minutes.  As a pediatric physical therapist, I wondered if the 7-minute workout could be modified for kids.

So is the 7-minute workout something you can do with your kids?

Of course! Intensive endurance training has been proven effective in kids as young as 8 years old. That said, I have also taken bits and pieces of the workout and used them as part of exercise program for kids as young as 5 years old. There are components of the 12 exercises that work on more than just muscle and cardiovascular endurance.

Here is a  break down of each exercise in the 7-minute workout and why they are part of a pediatric physical therapist’s repertoire:

1) Jumping Jacks: Kids as young as 5 years old should be able to perform jumping jacks with proper technique. This is an exercise that works on total body coordination, motor planning, and endurance.

2) Wall sit: This is a great way to strengthen the hip and trunk. A lot of children I see have gait deviations related to weakness in their thigh and hip muscles. They also have weakness in their large muscles that are needed for postural control. Modified (less intense) versions of a wall sit can help work on muscles they need for bigger movements such as running, walking, and jumping.

3) Push-ups: A typically developing 6 year old should be able to do 8 push-ups in 30 seconds. Working on push-ups with proper form teach correct use of abdominal muscles and postural muscles in the upper trunk.

4) Abdominal crunch: Doing sit-ups is an obvious measurement of abdominal/trunk strength in children. It is part of many school-aged fitness tests (read about the FitnessGram here). A typically developing 5 year old is able to do at least 1-3 sit-ups without having to use compensations such as pulling up with the arms. Abdominal muscles are important not only for posture, but for the development of balance and ball skills.

5) Step-up onto chair: This is a big muscle group exercise. Steps of different heights can be used depending on age and ability. Often times, the number of repetitions a child can do is not the most important thing. What matters more is the quality of movements. Being able to step-up and down using either leg equally, being able to step-up without using hands, and being able to keep hips/knees in neutral alignment are all the things we look for in a typically developing child. This exercise will help build strength, symmetry, and lower body alignment so your little one can do age-appropriate skills such as stair climbing and jumping.

6) Squat: Whether a child does squats with hands supported or free-standing, squats work on large muscles such as the glutes and the core. In children who walk on their toes, I also have them work on playing and jumping in the squat position. It stretches out their calves and encourages them to shift weight back through their heels.

7) Triceps dip on chair: Triceps dips are hard to master. It is a modified version of the bridge position, or crab position, as I tell most of my 3-year-olds. It is another great way to encourage heel contact, abdominal muscle strength, and upper body strength. Being able to just hold the position for a 5 year old strengthens more than just the belly muscles. It strengthens the muscles that wrap around the trunk, promoting posture.

8) Plank: Ask anyone who has ever held a plank and they will tell you this is a full body workout! From strengthening the shoulder girdle, to engaging all core muscles, to working on balance, this exercise gives you the most bang for your buck. The importance of many of these things has been touched on previously, but it should be noted that proper shoulder girdle strength is imperative for many things, including ball skills, legible hand writing, and other fine motor tasks.

9) High knees running in place: Running in place with high knees encourages forefoot push-off, and strengthening of calves and quadriceps. Strong muscles in these areas allow for increased push-off during running and jumping activities, allowing a child to run faster and jump farther.

10) Lunge: Lunges are another great exercise utilized by physical therapists to address many different areas. Lunges can help improve ankle range of motion, quadriceps strength, and dynamic balance. Just like with squats, this exercise can be performed both with hands supported and free-standing, depending on the child’s strength and balance needs.

11) Push-up and rotation: This exercise is a way to increase the difficulty of a regular push-up, while also addressing the core muscles important for dynamic postural control. A child should only move on to these exercises once he/she has mastered regular push-ups with good form; regular push-ups can be substituted at station 11 if needed.

12) Side plank: This exercise is a way to increase the difficulty of a regular plank, while focusing primarily on rotator cuff strength and stability. A strong rotator cuff is necessary to prevent injury with repetitive overhead tasks, such as throwing and swimming. Many children who play competitive baseball, softball, and swimming, should be on a rotator cuff strengthening program to limit the frequency of overuse injuries.

Incorporating this short work-out into your family’s daily routine is a great way for the whole family to stay active and show your children the how important it is to exercise regularly. Always remember to get cleared by your physician prior to the start of a new exercise routine. If your school-aged child reports pain or if you notice significant difficulty with any of these exercises, please contact our physical therapists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy to set up an evaluation.

Co-written by Andrea Ragsdale PT

Reference:

Stout, JL. Physical Fitness during Childhood and Adolescence. In Campbell, SK. Physical Therapy for Children ed 3. St. Louis, Missouri : Elsevier, 2006. pp 257-287

5 Ways to Improve Fine Motor Skills with Valentines

It’s that special time of the year again. Bags of candy and cards adorned with hearts and kind messages line the aisles of our local grocery and convenient stores. Our kids wait with great anticipation for their classroom Valentine’s Day parties when they are allowed to pass out and receive cards; play games, and eat delicious sugar-filled treats. While this time of the year can be difficulty to enjoy as we’re trudging through the snow covered streets, try to take time to enjoy the season and help your child to spruce up her fine motor skills!

5 ways to turn Valentine’s Day into a platform for improving fine motor skills:

  1. Cutting: This year, instead of buying pre-made cards from the grocery store, help your children cut their own cards from their favorite colored construction paper. For the younger kids, cutting straight lines for a square or cutting across a piece of paper to create smaller squares is the first place to start. For kiddos who are older (4 ½- 6), try to encourage them to cut simple shapes including circles or hearts. If your child is up for the challenge, encourage her to cut out the shape using a hole-puncher. The resistance that the hole puncher provides and repetitive motion to cut the entire shape will surely improve your child’s hand strength. Cutting is an excellent way to improve hand strength, bilateral coordination, visual motor skills, and fine motor planning.
  2. Writing Name: Making Valentines cards is an excellent way for your child to practice writing her name. Practice and repetition is key in building new foundational skills. What a better way to provide repetition than asking your child to sign a card for all of her classmates? If a child needs more help, try to show her how you would write her name, letter by letter, on a separate piece of paper. In your child’s handwriting skills are advanced, encourage her to write a short message to her best friends. The more she practices, the better her handwriting will become!
  3. Gluing: Gluing is another way to promote fine motor skills and hand strength. If your child chooses to use a glue stick, encourage her to use her dominant hand with the same grasp pattern that she uses for writing and coloring activities with her pencils and markers.
  4. Stickers and Stamps: Placing stickers on cards can also help your child to improve her fine motor control. Bending and manipulating a sheet in order to peel the desired sticker from the page and manipulating the sticker to place it on her Valentine takes a lot of patience, bilateral coordination, and fine motor planning.
  5. Folding: Folding is a very challenging activity for a lot of kiddos. Practicing manipulating paper so that the sides match up while folding and stabilizing the two ends together to create a crease in the middle of the paper requires a lot of visual and fine motor planning.

Valentine’s Day, as with many other holidays, affords children an opportunity to practice their fine motor skills. There should not be any limits to their creativity in making cards for their friends. Encourage them to practice new and emerging fine motor skills this season as they’re creating their cards!

Multi-Sensory Activities to Practice Pre-Writing Shapes

Mastery of the pre-writing shapes is an essential part of a child’s development towards efficient handwriting.

Pre-writing shapes include the following (in order of development):

Pre-writing shape

Approximate age of development

Horizontal lines 2 years
Vertical lines 2.5 years
Circle 3 years
Cross 3.5-4 years
Square 4 years
Diagonal line 4.5 years
Triangle 5 years

Activities to promote appropriate development of pre-writing shapes:

  • Play with Shaving Cream: Cover a surface with shaving cream, and have your child use her index finger to imitate, copy, trace or draw the pre-writing shapes. Try this activity on a vertical plane to add an extra challenge to this activity. For example, write on a mirror or on a tile wall while in the bathtub. By working on a vertical plane, your child uses her shoulder to stabilize the arm movements, creating extra strengthening and increased stability of the arm and shoulder.
  • Finger Paint: Finger painting can be done on a table, easel, or by taping paper to the wall. Have your child cover the paper with paint and then use her fingers to imitate, copy, trace or draw the pre-writing shapes.
  • Use Sand or Rice: Pour a small amount of sand on a table or a plate and have your child create these shapes with her fingers.
  • Use a Chalk Board: Use chalk to create the pre-writing shapes, then use a wet paint brush to trace them. This creates two opportunities to practice! This can be also done without a paintbrush. Instead, dip your child’s finger in water, and then trace the shapes.
  • Play with Play Dough: Use little fingers to mold play dough into various shapes. This can be done by copying a shape, either on top of a shape (imitation) or by memory. This activity also provides an opportunity to address fine motor coordination and strength; have your child pull, pinch, or roll the dough for an extra challenge. A fork and knife can also be used to manipulate the dough while simultaneously addressing feeding skills.

Once the pre-writing shapes are mastered, these same strategies can be used to practice letters! Using a multi-sensory approach to pre-writing shapes increases your child’s awareness, memory and motor learning to learn and maintain these skills. If your child continues to have difficulty with these shapes, please contact a certified occupational therapist.

Dressing Skills: Developmental Steps for Kids

Dressing may seem like a simple task, but it is actually a task that requires multiple skill sets from children. Dressing requires skills girl dressing such as fine and gross motor coordination, body awareness, bilateral coordination, right/left discrimination, postural stability, and motor planning. As a parent, it can be difficult to know at what age a child should develop certain skills in dressing.

Developmental steps of self-dressing skills in children*:

1 year:

  • Pulls off shoes
  • Removes socks
  • Pushes arms and legs through garments

2 years:

  • Helps pull down pants
  • Finds armholes in pullover shirts
  • Removes unfastened jackets
  • Removes untied shoes

2.5 years:

  • Removes pull-down elastic waist pants
  • Unbuttons large buttons
  • Puts on front button shirt

3 years:

  • Puts on socks and shoes (though it might be the wrong feet or socks upside down)
  • Puts on pullover shirts with some help
  • Buttons large buttons
  • Pulls down pants
  • Zips and unzips with help to place on track

3.5 years:

  • Identifies front of clothing
  • Snaps fasteners
  • Unbuckles belt
  • Buttons 3-4 buttons at a time
  • Unzips jacket zipper

4 years:

  • Removes pull over shirts without help
  • Buckles belt
  • Zips jacket
  • Puts on socks correctly
  • Identifies front and back of clothing

5 years:

  • Dresses alone
  • Ties and unties knots

6 years:

  • Ties bows and shoelaces

According to Jayne Shepherd (2005), achieving independence in dressing may take up to 4 years. During this time, parents gradually perform fewer of the tasks, and encourage their children to do more, with the ultimate goal of independence.

*Source:

Shepherd, J. (2010). Activities of daily living and adaptations for independent living. In J. Case-Smith, (Ed.), Occupational therapy for children (5th ed., p., 501). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

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The IMPORTANCE of Superman and Silly Bug!

During an occupational therapy initial evaluation, as well as throughout ongoing treatment sessions, a child’s ability to maintain two Girl doing a superman exerciseanti-gravity positions is observed. These two positions are named Superman (prone extension) and Silly Bug (supine flexion). Each position observes how the child moves his body (e.g., body awareness and motor planning), his strength and endurance to maintain the position and his ability to follow directions and attend to a challenging and novel task. Below are the directions on how to assume both Superman and Silly Bug.  The approximate norms which should be seen for children of various ages are shown as well.

Superman (Prone Extension):

Lying on belly with arms and legs extended and lifted off of the floor (Note: a child will bend his knees/elbows to compensate. If necessary, provide touch cues to the legs to get him to straighten them out).

Age Length of time (seconds)
4 18
5 31-60
6 63-77
7 90-119
8+ 120-138

Silly Bug (Supine Flexion):
Lying on back with arms crossed over chest, legs bent and head lifted off of the floor. The child then flexes his legs and lifts his head from the floor (like a “crunchie” position).

Age Length of time (seconds)
4 10
5 25
6 46
7 68
8+ 88

Overall, it should be noted that while the norms may seem high, children should be able to hold these positions for as long as an adult can, possibly longer. This expectation can be attributed to the fact that the functioning of the vestibular system declines as one ages. This is why activities such as roller coasters may become less preferred or less entertaining for adults as they no longer crave the intense vestibular input (unless they practice positions of inversion, such as yoga or pilates on a regular basis. With that being said, it is extremely important for parents to practice these anti-gravity positions with their children at home, as well as in the clinic, in order to see the greatest amount of progress in the child’s strength, endurance, body awareness, motor planning and vestibular processing. LOVE WHAT YOU READ?  CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOGS VIA EMAIL!

How to Teach your Child with Sensory Processing Difficulties How to Ride a Bike

Learning to ride a bike can be a scary and overwhelming adventure for both the parents and the child involved!  There are many components required for bike riding, such as motor planning, body awareness, trunk control, balance, self-confidence, following directions, safety awareness, timing, and sequencing.  However, one of the best things about bike riding is that the child is typically very motivated and excited to do it, as he sees his friends or other children in the neighborhood doing so already.

SPD Child riding a bike

Below are several strategies on how to get started:

  • Practice lots of balance activities:  balance is a huge part of bike riding; therefore, it is important to strengthen these skills by challenging your child’s ability to maintain various positions including standing on one leg, sustaining yoga poses, walking across balance beams, or kneeling on an unstable surface such as the bosu ball.
  • Incorporate a variety of activities with wheels:  while being able to ride a bike independently might be the ultimate goal, it is beneficial to incorporate other similar skill sets into your child’s play experience.  This will help you and your child to take the emphasis off of the fact that he does not know how to ride a bike and help to focus on the excitement of trying new things (e.g. scooter, skate board, tricycle, roller skates, etc.).  Similarly, your child might really excel at one of these activities, in which this activity can then be used as a confidence booster when the child has already mastered it.
  • Practice inside:  have your child practice simply balancing on the bike/sitting on the bike in a safe environment, such as inside (e.g. basement or playroom/living room if appropriate).  Place large pillows/beanbags next to the bike so the child feels secure, and if he falls, he will crash into the pillows.
  • Involve different family members/friends:  bike riding can be a very complex task; therefore, it can be extremely beneficial to involve different family members/friends to help with the process. Different people have different strategies and ways of motivating and sometimes one strategy will really hit home for your child.  Similarly, then the same parent and child won’t get so frustrated with one another.
  • Visual schedule:  help your child to make a visual schedule/calendar to illustrate when the child will start practicing and what skill he will work on each day (e.g. getting onto bike; peddling with both legs; ride to the corner etc); then the child can put an “x” or a sticker on the chart when he completes a day of practice, or practices a skill etc.  Visual schedules can be motivating for the child, and provide structure.
  • Take the pedals off:  taking the pedals off of the bike helps initially with learning the feel of the bike/balance. Take the bike to a small hill and have the child ride down without the pedals, this provides an introduction to moving and balancing on the bike without needing the coordination to pedal.

Learning a novel activity can be intimidating for a child, as it is a totally new experience and requires a significant amount of following directions and motor planning.  Similarly, teaching  novel activities can be nerve wracking for the parents, especially if it is a skill they have not taught before, like bike riding.  As parents, it is important to keep in mind that every child learns differently and requires different levels of support when learning a new skill.  Make sure to constantly praise your child during this challenging activity, even if it seems like the tiniest accomplishment (e.g. buckling bike helmet independently; putting kickstand down independently).  As always, feel free to talk with an occupational therapist or physical therapist if you need more individualized strategies or have other gross motor concerns for your child.

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5 Swings Used in your Child’s Therapy Sessions

Oftentimes, parents probably wonder ‘what makes the swings and equipment at my child’s therapy different than the swings at the  playground’?  The answer is that each of the swings used in the therapy gym are able to be used in a much safer and controlled Little girl sleeping in hammockenvironment, as the therapists are able to place mats and pillows under and around the swings, and the therapist can therefore challenge how the child engages in the activity and moves and manipulates his body (e.g. hanging underneath the barrel swing).  Similarly, the swings used in the therapy gym are able to be hung on a rotating hook to allow the child and the swing to move in a variety of planes and directions, providing the child with a greater amount of vestibular and proprioceptive input.

Below are explanations of 5 of the swings therapists use throughout your child’s therapy sessions to help best understand the benefits of using the therapy equipment

  1. Superman swing: The superman swing is also referred to as our prone extension swing, meaning that the child is lying in a prone position (on his belly with his arms and legs extended). The superman swing is suspended high enough off of the floor so that the child has to weight bear through his upper body (shoulders, arms, hands). We often refer to this position as using his ‘wheelbarrow’ arms. This position helps to improve upper body strength, neck strength, trunk control, and multi-tasking/motor planning, as the child is typically playing some sort of board game or activity while maintaining this prone extension position in the swing. As the child gets stronger, he shoots to remain in the swing for longer and longer durations.
  2. Cuddle swing: The cuddle swing is mostly used for self-regulation and calming, as it mimics a hammock, in that it completely surrounds, engulfs, and molds to the child’s body. While in the swing children often feel extremely secure and at ease as the swing provides them with a squeezing sensation- much like a big bear hug from mom or dad. The cuddle swing can provide the child with slow rhythmic movement, which can be very relaxing for a child, especially when he is feeling anxious or when his body is moving too quickly. The cuddle swing can also provide a child with more intense vestibular input, as the child can be spun in circles, when he is seeking more fast-paced input.
  3. Rainbow swing: The rainbow swing looks exactly how it sounds, as it has 4 different colored layers, which the child can crawl in and out of. The rainbow swing provides a rhythmic motion when the child lies on his back or stomach in one position, while the therapist swings him back and forth. Similarly, the child can start at one end of the swing and crawl through like a resistive suspended tunnel, until he reaches the other end and can crash out onto a pile of pillows. This serves as a heavy work activity and can ideally help to increase his attention and body awareness.
  4. Frog swing: The frog swing looks exactly like a playground swing, in which a child needs to pump his legs or be pushed by a therapist to get his momentum going. Typically, the child is instructed to listen for a ‘magic word’ before jumping off of the swing to crash into a pile of large floor pillows (e.g. ready, set, and ‘go’). This activity helps to work on following directions and motor planning, as the child must figure out how to get his body off of the swing at the correct timing to land on the pillows.
  5. T-swing: The t-swing looks like an upside down letter “T”, and may also be referred to as a barrel swing. The child is required to wrap his arms and legs around the barrel like a koala bear and hold on as tight as he can while the therapist is pushing and swinging him. This swing helps to work on entire body strengthening and endurance, and it also requires motor planning and body awareness in order to assume the correct position initially to get onto the swing.

As therapists, we find that the swings listed above are extremely motivating for our clients to use, and serve many distinct purposes; as such, equipment truly helps us to better reach our client’s goals (e.g. following directions; attention; body awareness; self-regulation).  The swings are also a great reward for clients to work towards throughout a therapy session, as they see all of the other children playing on them, and they want to partake in the fun too.  Feel free to ask your child’s therapist if you can come-in and peak at the therapy gym during your child’s session to help you to best understand the treatment process.

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