Monday, October 15, 2012

Everyday Therapy: Gross motor and sensory fun outside

Going outside with your child is probably the easiest "everyday therapy".  There are many opportunities for practicing skills.

Baba has some mild sensory issues that affect his ability to eat, to tolerate sounds, and try new things.  However, when he's outside he shows a remarkable ability to tolerate sensory input.  It also motivates him to try new things and practice his gross motor skills.

getting muddy
Normally he wouldn't touch anything wet or muddy, but he was inspired to walk through mud on this day!  He got the mud all over his feet.  Of course, he was unhappy afterwards and I had to wipe them.  Several weeks later, he walked in on his bare feet and didn't mind that his feet were covered with mud!

This is typical of children with sensory issues.  They are more willing to try new sensory experiences, when they can do so on their own terms, when their neurological and mental systems are prepared.  They also have days when their systems can tolerate more sensory input and days when they can't tolerate much at all.  Their body is affected by sleep, diet, stress, developmental stages, etc.  This is true of adults, but we have more coping skills to help us when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed.  Children are in various stages of learning these coping strategies.

walking on grass
It took Joshua a long time to start walking on grass.  He really didn't like how it felt.  We started with completely covered shoes, then the fisherman sandals above, and now he can walk on grass barefoot!  He had trouble with both the uneven ground and the feel of the grass.  He still has days when he can't tolerate it, but he no longer goes out of his way to avoid it.

beginning to run
Being outside, helped Baba learn to run.  I would write the numbers in chalk and he would walk from number to number, until he slowly began to run.  In this picture, he is still mainly walking fast.

vestibular/movement therapy
Baba hated the swing when he was younger, but watching other babies increased his curiosity, until he agreed to get on himself.  Now he loves the swing.  We recently installed one at home, so we wouldn't miss this important treatment during bad weather days.  Vestibular/movement treatment is one of the "big guns" for sensory integration treatment.

trying different things
Baba is very cautious and reticent of trying new things, especially if they involve possibly falling.  Yet when he's outside, he regularly tries new things.  In this picture, he decided to take the ball to the grass area, which required climbing over the barrier.  It's beautiful to see your child try things they might not try at home, when they feel inspired.

climbing a hill
There is a much larger variety of surfaces and inclines outside, giving your child more ways to practice or learn to challenge their balance.  In this picture, Baba practices going up and down a steeper incline, on a slightly slippery surface.

Even if your child is not really walking, they can still benefit from being outside.  If they're crawling, let them crawl on different surfaces.  It's a great sensory experience.  If they are using wheelchairs, walkers, or any other device, the different surfaces outside give them opportunity to challenge their skills.  Even if your child is not moving much, let them lay on a blanket and take in the sights.  They might just love it!

Why not enjoy the outdoors, while you still can?

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