Monday, March 28, 2011

Therapy Swings - Helping Kids Regulate and Learn About Their Bodies

As moms and teachers everywhere know, kids have a lot of energy. They need to move and play to get that energy out. This is true of all kids but this necessity is taken to a whole different level when dealing with kids with special needs. Children with ADD, ADHD, Sensory Integration issues, and Autism all benefit from daily movement and stimulation. Although each kid is different, occupational therapists often use various kinds of swings and swinging techniques to help these kids regulate their bodies. Swinging therapy helps kids focus and increases a child's body awareness.

Occupational therapy is a key component to a successful program for kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID). Swings of various kinds are used to help regulate the vestibular system and some can provide proprioception for calming kids down and increasing body awareness. Often times parents find carrying over occupational therapy techniques into the home a daunting task. Many parents turn their family rooms in an OT clinic but not everyone has the skills or ability to hang swings from their ceilings or cover their floors in mats. The best solution for most families is an indoor swing that has a variety of attachments and a solid support bar.

To create the perfect indoor swinging area for your child you should invest in attachments that best meet their individual needs. Here is a list of components that might benefit your child if they suffer from ADHD, Autism, or a Sensory Integration Disorder. All of the products listed here are by Theraplay Toys (also known as Play Away). We have found this product to be the most convenient, affordable, and sturdy indoor swing system available.

  • Support Bar - a solid support bar is an essential part of a good indoor swinging system. This well constructed support bar is designed to fit in any doorway 29-36 inches. If you are placing it in a doorway temporarily or just want the flexibility of putting it up and taking it down easily it can be soft mounted without any screws. With this type of installation the support bar can hold up to 175 lbs, if you plan on leaving it the doorway for long periods of time or permanently you can hard mount it. The hardware required to hard mount the support bar is included and it will hold up to 300 lbs so parent (or therapist) and child can ride together.
  • Net Swing - this is one of my personal favorites. This swing envelops your whole body as you swing back and forth. It not only stimulates the vestibular system it provide ample proprioception (pressure to the joints) so it is calming and comforting for kids who seek that type of pressure. Many kids love to relax in the net swing but it is also a good place for them to read a book or do homework with clipboard or hard surface on the lap. For kids that are praxis or suffer from other types of speech disorders doing speech therapy exercises while in a net swing can keep them alert and motivated for a longer period of time.
  • 3 in 1 Platform Swing - this is one of the most innovative therapy swings I have every seen used in occupational therapy. The platform wing has long been a staple of sensory integration therapy. When Jean Ayres invented the therapy she used platform swings to help regulate a child's vestibular system. She added that varying types the types of movement and planes of the body will increase body awareness. On a Platform swing a child can stand, sit, and lie on their back or stomach. This innovative 3 in 1 system can also be removed from the swing and placed on the floor. It has a rotational devise on the underside of the platform that allows the platform to turn endless in circles. This can help kids who cannot tolerate rotary movement learn to do it in a safe manner. Additionally many kids in the Autism spectrum have a deep need to spin and this gives them a safe and appropriate way to get that movement.
  • One Seated Glider - as with all swing the glider stimulates the vestibular system but it also does so much more. It allows for proprioception as kids push with their feet to make the glider move forward and back. The full body extension also helps with postural stability by adding strength at the core.

These are just a few of the great attachments that can be used for sensory integration therapy in the home. Ironically the product was developed by a Dad of a neuro-typical child because they lived in an apartment in a wet weather climate. Basically his kids were driving him crazy. Then a few parents of Autistic children found out about this amazing product and it has helped so many families. One of my dear friends has had this hanging in her kitchen doorway for the last 5 years. Everyone is the house sits in it from time to time but her Autistic daughter uses it daily to self regulate. It keeps her ticks to a minimum and instead of rocking or picking at her fingers she sits in her net swing. The indoor swing set has given her a tool to self regulate in an appropriate way. It makes her feel good - not just in the calm physical sense - it makes her feel good about herself and increases her self esteem because she feels more in control of her own body.

As a mother of a child with sensory issues and a friend to so many other moms in the same situation I cannot say enough about having an indoor swing therapy set. It is an essential part of a well rounded sensory diet and the perfect arsenal in combating sensory integration disorder.

Alycia Shapiro is Vice President in charge of product development for SensoryEdge. She has advocated for special needs children in order to get the therapy services they need. Many parents either have difficulty getting the proper services or might not know these services are available. You can visit her websites to learn more about educational Toys and Play Therapy.

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