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
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