Swinging! It is just what the doctor ordered. No really – many therapists and developmental pediatricians will prescribe swinging for up to 30 minutes a day as a way to address vestibular sensory integration for kiddos with special needs. Alex is diagnosed as static encephalopathy (a catch-all for severe developmental delays – closely linked to Cerebral Palsy), apraxic, ID, ADHD, and who knows what else!
Plus swinging is just so much fun!
Alex will only stay on the swing for about 10 minutes at a time, and I don’t push it. We might swing at various times of the day, or spend an afternoon at the park and just hop on the swing every 10 minutes. Just base it off what your kid can handle. But that’s not all!
Impromptu Therapy Session!
Swinging is fun and helps your sensory integration, but you are missing a huge opportunity for an at home therapy session
If your kid is like Alex, it takes a lot of time to build the coordination to pump your legs, angle your body forward and backward, and pull your arms on the chains before you can really master swinging by yourself. He was nine before it all came together, and I taught him by using my trusty forearm. I would use my forearm like a stick and on top of his shins to push his legs down as he swing back, and then under his calves to push up on his way up. I kneel next to the swing as he swings, and I go through the motions for a few minutes at a time.
While creating this motion with your kid’s legs, say vocabulary that they can understand like “out” and “in” or “up” and “down.” Think about what you are working on here! We are tackling our vestibular system through sensory integration, you are working on 2 step commands, coordination of the legs and core to create the motion of swinging, vocabulary development, and behavior management by controlling the situation.
How about we add a little speech!
If you have a non-verbal son or daughter like Alex, or a kid who has limited vocabulary (or just taking a behavioral approach to show your kid that you are, in-fact, the boss) stop their swinging. Alex is a pretty laid-back guy, so I wouldn’t have to say that I am going to stop his swing, but you might want to give warning to your kid so they don’t freak out.
I won’t allow Alex to start swinging again until he can tell me “go” or “swing, please.” Now, he is non-verbal, but he can make sounds. From the help of our amazing speech therapist, Tara Boettcher (Arlington/Mansfield, TX), we utilize the phrase “turn your motor on,” or “make your motor go.” Alex knows that he must vocalize in order to have what he wants. So I tell Alex, “Alex, do you want to swing again?? (exaggerated head nod, excited tone). Well then, make your motor go and tell me “go.” I wait until he attempts to vocalize (tends to be babble of sorts), and we swing!
We also utilize our AAC (augmentative and alternative communication device) with Words for Life – LAMP app on his iPad for communication. If I don’t want him to vocalize, I would use his device and tell him to say a variety of phrases to start his swing again.
- “Go” (beginners with the app)
- “I want (to) swing” (more advanced sentences)
We can also use the device to show someone we want to have a turn.
- “My turn”
- “Alex turn”
- “please” and “thank you”
When swing time is over we can vocalize with our motor or device to “stop.”
…and sometimes we just swing. Sometimes work is not fun, and we just need to play. After Alex works a little, he gets to do as he pleases. This usually results in swinging on his belly, or laying under the swing, in the dirt, and pushing the swing.
Leave a comment if you want to add constructive variations that work for your kid.
Search the site for other forms of therapy that can be done at home or anywhere you happen. Because all moments can be therapy moments, so that you can PLAY ALL DAY!