Occupational Therapy (OT) can begin as early in life as you feel your child is able to experience it. In fact, parents who utilize a swaddle or wrap with an infant are in fact giving their child occupational therapy from the very beginning. This type of therapy helps children, especially those who are diagnosed as having special needs, with their development and progress. It also gives you and your children something fun to do at home.
The need for Occupational Therapy is greater for children who have been diagnosed with special needs. Sometimes they have difficulty eating or focusing on what they should be doing at a particular time and therefore this therapy helps them to refocus, gives them the sensory feeling they need and aids in growth and development. The results I have seen are amazing — children who wouldn’t eat previously are now gobbling down their food. Other examples include children who would easily lose interest or focus, are now able to stay on task and complete a project with less difficulty than before.
The funny thing about Occupational Therapy is that it doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment in order to be effective. Parents who have the means can help their children by setting up an OT gym in their homes. For those that cannot set up a gym, Occupational Therapy can be enjoyed with some simple tasks as well. The OT activities that you can engage in include such things as brushing a child’s hair, bouncing a ball, reaching with stretch bands and much more. Any of these activities can work to help children calm their bodies, focus on the activity and enjoy the sensation of the touch and movement that they need, especially children with special needs.
Because children who have been diagnosed as having special needs often need the feeling they get from OT more than just when a therapist is available, we recommend having a plan and equipment at home to help aid in the growth and development of your child. As I said, the therapy aids can be simple, or elaborate, depending on your budget and your therapist can help you choose the right items for your child. After consulting with your Occupational Therapist, our team at WRTS will be glad to help guide you in the right direction.
Here are some inexpensive options for OT:
The use of swaddles and cuddling for babies and parents has been shown to be an effective way to bond with children. When a baby is just newborn they are thrust into a new environment that is not nearly as comfortable or secure as their mother’s womb. This is one of the reasons many early child care experts now suggest the use of a swaddle or wrap on a regular basis to help babies continue to have that connection with their mother.
When a child has special needs, whether it be from autism, down syndrome or a variety of other disorders, it’s difficult for a diagnosis to take place prior to the age of six months, but as with many babies, they will let you know what comforts them and what does not. You may need to keep them in a swaddle or wrap and close to you for the first six to eight months of their life in order to help them maintain a calm and secure feeling. This was the case with my son Gabriel who has been diagnosed with autism, but at the time I wasn’t sure why he needed the swaddle so much, but after his diagnosis it is very clear to me this was a need he had.
Once a child has outgrown the need of the swaddle and is now ready for a swing, many children with special needs will not accept a typical swing that is found at a park or playground. They still desire and require the need of the comfort that comes from being wrapped up in a cocoon shape, making a lycra hammock swing a great choice at this point in their young lives. For a long time I wouldn’t go anywhere with Gabriel without having a hammock swing with us for him to enjoy when we spotted a place he could use it. This swing became a great tool to help him calm his body and to help me when Gabriel needed the sensory response he received from the swing.
Between the swaddle when they are infants and the hammock swing as they grow, children with special needs respond to and need the pressure on their bodies to give them the sensory feeling they are looking for which helps them calm their bodies and enjoy the activity in front of them.
Another item that is useful as a child begins to grow is a merry-go-round. Still found at many playgrounds, the merry-go-round gives children the sensation of movement and where it might have you or I feeling dizzy and sick, children with special needs enjoy the sensation and will regularly scream out “again, again” when the ride stops.
When children reach up to the preschool and early years of school they are usually bigger and able to handle more intense play than when they were younger. At this point many children will respond very positively to rough play from the parents and really gain the sensory experience they need. Of course this may wear out you as parents so you might need to have a tag team plan to play with your energetic children, but this can be a lot of fun and give you and your children a great bonding experience as well.
Even though we may not have a WRTS location near you does not mean you can’t gain access to or benefit from the awesome equipment we use. One of the biggest benefits of having online access is being able to reach anyone across the country who could utilize the equipment we have in our gyms. With this easy access to equipment, large and small, we can help you get what you need at home, and help you find a great sensory gym in your area for the larger play benefits for your children.
Our goal is not to just help those who come to our gym locations, but to be able to help all kids who need some assistance with development. Because the activities and equipment needed are actually very basic to gain the result desired, all children will enjoy playing with the equipment, making the use of the balls, swings, climbing structures or whatever else you choose as your OT equipment.