Monday, October 20, 2014

What's in a swing? essential part of childhood.

Movement is essential for typical development to occur in all children. Most of us have no problem combining all our senses.
For autistic children and other disorder however, it's a mighty challenging task. Processing stimuli from the senses of sight, smell, sound, touch, taste, balance and body is overwhelming. Those suffering from autism will often withdraw to avoid over stimulation, or try to sort out the input from their senses with self-developed soothing mechanisms and repetitive behaviors.
A significant amount of occupational therapy for special needs focuses on sensory integration through specially designed programs. Some of the greatest tools for sensory integration therapy for autism, cerebral palsy and other type disorders are various types of swings.

Swinging can have powerful impact the brain's ability to process and use sensory information. Whether the child is linear swinging on a strap swing, cuddled up in a net swing for proprioceptive input or spinning in a rotating movement, all of these movements can act as a powerful activator on the body's systems.
People with various autism spectrum disorders such as Autism, PDD, ADHD, Asperger's, proprioceptive dysfunction and tactile defensiveness will benefit from using swings as part of their therapy.
Children, who find the smooth, swaying motion soothing, will relax and unwind while using it. However, children who have a vestibular dysfunction will feel uneasy while in the hammock and might initially protest its use.

For them, hammock therapy is more about regaining equilibrium and learning to tolerate vestibular stimuli. The motion of swinging restores balance to the vestibular system provides proprioceptive input (deep pressure) and generally children feel more "in balance".

The soothing motion of swinging soothes, relaxes and increases concentration. Children who have trouble focusing on tasks such as reading or math, might find it easier to concentrate sitting in a hammock chair, their bodies engaged in a soothing motion.

Therapists, parents and teachers can use swings effectively to reinforce any therapy objectives for children and provide sensory diets for special needs children. In addition, swings can act as a strong motivator. Since all kids like to swing (special needs or not), swinging can be used as a reward for positive behavior.


When choosing a swing and swing apparatus it is critical to consider safety at all times.

Adult supervision is always required at all times.
Be aware of floor wall and head protection
Make sure the swings are able to support the user(s).
Children who are seizure prone may require additional precautions.
Make sure the child has the ability to stop on their own at a moment's notice.
The child must want to swing on their own. Never force a child to participate

Happy Swinging!

Image courtesy:,,,                        , Geoff Robinson,

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Sensory Brush

Sensory brush also called the Wilbarger or mushroom brush, is designed to provide deep pressure sensory input for the calming and integrating influence to the brain, putting the child in that calm alert stage for learning to take place. It is usually used for kids with sensory issues especially tactile defensiveness. Although it may be used alone, it is best with a sensory "diet" of input designed to help the child cope with their day. When done correctly, the brushing/joint compression should take 2-3 minutes and can be done in almost any location.

    • Brushing: This gives deep pressure to all of the sensory areas of the arms, trunk and legs. It is calming, organizing and tends to normalize sensory reception. It feels good immediately to most people and starts to feel good to the rest after a few repetitions. To be most effective, the brushing should be done approximately every 1 ½ - 2 hrs from the time the child gets up in the morning until 1 ½ hrs before he normally goes to bed. (realistically, you ask the teachers to perform at least 3-4 times during the school day) The sensory input given like this, lasts 90-120 minutes. You may or may not notice any immediate change in the child since positive results may take two or more weeks of consistent performance to be evident. 

    • How to do the calm brushing technique
  • Use oval, soft surgical brush provided by therapist (OT).
  • Hold the brush in one hand with the hard  side up. Cup hand over brush so that fingertips do not drag.
  • Hold Child's forearm with palm of his hand up.
  • Place brush firmly on palm. Using slow, FIRM, single stroke move brush from palm up forearm to just below the elbow. 
  • Turn Child's arm so that palm faces down. Do not move brush. Maintain pressure.
  • Brush downwards on the back of the forearm stopping on the back of the hand.
  • In one, long stroke, brush up from the back of the hand to the shoulder. Stop.

  • Place hand not holding the brush firmly on Child's shoulder. Lift brush and place at back of shoulder.
  • With a single stroke, brush from back of shoulder to waist on one side of the back.
  • Brush from waist up to the base of the skull.
  • Brush down from the base of the skull to the waist on the other side of the back.
  • Brush up from the waist to the other shoulder.

  • Place hand not holding the brush firmly on Child's shoulder. Lift brush and place at front of shoulder.
  • With a single stroke, brush from shoulder down to back of hand.
  • Brush from back of hand to forearm just below inside of elbow, turning arm so that palm is up.
  • Brush from elbow down to palm.

  • While holding palm, lift brush, stoop down and place brush on back of calf just below inside of knee.
  • Brush downwards on an angle to the outside of the ankle.
  • Brush upwards on an angle to the front of the knee.
  • Brush downwards, across the ankle to the top of the foot.
  • Repeat with other leg.
  • Follow with joint compressions.

    • Joint compressions: This gives input to joints and muscles and will help Child have a better sense of where his body is in space. It is also deep pressure that tends to be calming and help the brain to organize itself to perform task. May be used alone or in combination with brushing technique.
Technique: NOTE  this feels good and should never hurt. Stop if it does and check technique.

  • Grasp Child's right hand with your right hand as if you were going to shake hands.
  • Use your left hand to hold Child's right forearm. Keep your fingers straight, do not pinch.
  • With quick, firm movements, push Child's right hand towards his wrist. Repeat rapidly 7-10 times. Some call this "thunks".
  • Now move your left hand to cup Child's right elbow and your right hand to hold his forearm. It is easier if elbow is bent.
  • With quick, firm movements, push Child's forearm into his elbow. Repeat rapidly 7-10 times.
  • Now keep your left hand cupping Child's left elbow and move your right hand to rest on the top of his right shoulder.
  • With quick, firm movements, push Child's arm up towards his shoulders. If you're doing it correctly the shoulder will move upwards slightly.
  • Repeat with Child's left arm. You may or may not need to change hands.
  • Have Child sit down. Cup your hand around front of his left knee.
  • With quick firm movements, push knee towards hip rapidly 7-10 times.
  • Place hand over top of knee. Be sure foot is on the floor under the knee.
  • With quick firm movements, push downwards towards floor 7-10 times.


The face, chest, and stomach area are never brushed because these are very sensitive areas. Brushing these areas may cause adverse reactions including vomiting.

  Do NOT brush over open sores or bony prominences
  Do NOT allow your fingers or edge of brush to drag or dig into the skin
  Do NOT hurry, but move at a steady pace (whatever pace you need to use to keep pressure even)
  It is OK to brush over clothing or shoes.
  DO keep brush flat, brushing with brush held sideways so that width is used
  DO be positive about brushing, make it fun, or at least not negative for child

  DO follow brushing with joint compressions (you may substitute hand hugs or deep rubs if child responds negatively to joint compression)

  Although many children will hold out their hands for the brushing t after having it done once or twice, some may take longer to feel the benefit.

  IF a child reacts negatively, stop. Try again in 15-60 minutes, checking your technique.


Image courtesy:,,,,