EDU Healthcare Blog
10 Best Benefits of a Sensory Swing...
From the time they are in utero, kids’ bodies and brains are developing from the movement they experience. Whether it’s flipping around in amniotic fluid, toddling around as a new walker, jumping on a trampoline, or swinging on the backyard playset, the brain is interpreting movement through its vestibular sense.
While most people are familiar with the five senses, the sense of movement (or vestibular sense) is unfamiliar to most parents. The vestibular sense gives a child information about where their body is in space, if they’re moving or still, how quickly they’re moving, and in what direction.
Vestibular receptors are located in your inner ear and are activated by the fluid in the ear canals moving as you move. This allows your brain to detect changes in head position to know whether you are moving with or against gravity. These receptors give your body information on where you are in space so you can be safe while navigating through your environment.
With a well-developed vestibular sense, your child develops eye/head coordination, muscle tone, balance, and bilateral coordination. Think about all that your child will do as they grow – catch a ball, zip a coat, cut with scissors, copy from the blackboard in school, ride a bike, play a sport – without a developed vestibular sense, these activities would be a challenge!
Swings for Vestibular Input
If you’re lucky enough to live in a sunny, warm climate year-round, it’s easy to find outdoor activities that provide vestibular input. Running, biking, climbing, jumping, swinging, and sliding are all fun ways to provide movement opportunities. For some kids who need more intensity of sensory input, or for those of us who are limited by variable outdoor weather, sensory swings are crucial to providing necessary vestibular stimulation all year round.
When you can’t provide your child with outdoor vestibular activities, there are alternatives you can add to your play space indoors. Ideally, a sensory swing allows for rotational movement (in all directions) as well as linear movement (back and forth, side to side). Some swings even have a vertical component that allow for up/down bouncing as you swing!
10 Benefits of Sensory Swings
1. The vestibular sense informs body awareness, safety, muscle tone, balance, and coordination.
2. Different types of swings target specific vestibular receptors through different movement patterns:
vertical – up/down
linear – side/side
rotary – all directions
3. The addition of a rotational safety device such as this one from Southpaw allows for movement in all directions and must be added to a fixed mount if you intend to allow for spinning.
4. Swings can challenge core strength, balance, righting reactions, and motor skills in different ways, depending on the design you choose. Using swings within therapeutic activities can build these skills in novel, fun ways. For example, a trapeze swing challenges upper body strength but add a crash mat and now you’re challenging timing skills to swing, release, and crash onto a target! Change that simple trapeze into a rope swing style and add a rotary component to the same activity.Another example is using a platform-style swing that challenges balance in a seated position. Swinging and throwing beanbags to a target will help with visual motor, timing, and righting reactions. Use that same swing and activity while lying prone on your belly and see how you can challenge muscle strength and endurance to hold yourself up against gravity!
5. Some swings allow for combined vestibular input like this Frog Swing or this Moon Ball Swing. Sometimes you can simply add a vertical stimulation device to turn your favorite swing into a combined input swing. Some kids tolerate combined-input swings better because of the additional proprioceptive input.
6. 15 minutes of swinging can have effects on the brain for up to 6-8 hours! Consult your occupational therapist to better understand how to monitor and include spinning in controlled doses!
7. Swings allow for varied intensity of movement that may be needed for kids who under-respond or over-respond to vestibular input. The ability to meet individualized movement needs depends on the type of swing you choose: rotary swinging and inverted or upside down movement is the most intense! Linear movement (like jumping or bouncing) is the most tolerated vestibular input because it combines proprioceptive input as well. Predictable, rhythmic swinging promotes calm and organization while unpredictable, arhythmic swinging is alerting.
8. The vestibular system is closely linked to the visual system, so improvements (or deficits) in processing are often noticed in both areas. It is common to address visual processing issues with a vestibular or movement component because we use functional vision while our bodies move to inform our body awareness. Sensory swings challenge and develop the functional use of vision by allowing the use of vision to see while moving, or give kids the option of being completely immersed in a swing and eliminating visual feedback. The pod swing is an example of a swing that can be used with or without vision.
9. Installing a sensory swing in your home can be as simple as finding a spare doorway, setting up a pop-up tripod stand, or recruiting a handy friend to drill into a ceiling beam. For more information on swing installation, check out Southpaw Enterprises.
10. Sensory swings can support sensory diet planning for self-regulation purposes. Whether the intention of your sensory diet is to calm and reorganize, or alert and stimulate, there is a sensory swing that can meet your child’s needs.
Swings are fun! The possibilities for therapeutic activity with swings are inspiring and endless.
Your vestibular system supports your body awareness, coordination, balance, and visual skills from birth through adulthood. Some children do not process this sensory information appropriately and require therapeutic supports to help them make sense of movement. Sensory swings are a wonderfully functional and fun addition to your home sensory toolbox. With consultation from your child’s occupational therapist, you can choose a sensory swing that meets your child’s individual needs for vestibular stimulation or a combination of sensory systems to promote regulation.
What Is Integrated Therapy?...
Integrated therapy, like traditional therapy, is governed by the guidelines and policies of the related services professions. Also like traditional therapy, integrated therapy includes various levels of support and degrees of service. Related services accommodate, modify, compensate for, and reduce effects of a disability so a student can participate and benefit from the special education program. As in traditional therapy, goals are written based on individual student needs.
So how is it different? In integrated therapy, a student's related service needs are planned, provided, and assessed ecologically, in natural settings, across disciplines. Skills are found and thus addressed in the clusters which serve functions in a student's real life. The IEP is collaboratively written and priority skills are determined for student participation, functional independence, and overall benefit from the educational program.
Integrated therapy can include direct (therapist works with a student), indirect (therapist works with a class or group including a student), and consultation-style (therapist meets with teacher(s) of a student) therapy. However there is usually an increase in indirect therapy and consultation with a decrease in direct therapy sessions occurring in isolation, or "down the hall in the therapy room." The teacher, therapist, and paraprofessional work and learn together, sharing their knowledge and expertise. They work to serve the student in a "whole" fashion focusing in on parts as they relate specifically to the student's total school program. The teacher gains an understanding of therapy techniques and strategies to follow-through the entire school day. The therapist gains understanding of the inter-relatedness of the needed supports or skills with the complete scope and sequence of the educational curriculum.
The integrated therapy occurs in various locations based on the relevant or natural setting for the skill to occur. If there is a need for service in isolation because of privacy or distraction issues, it can be provided. If service needs to occur in a social setting or be integrated into coursework, then the instruction, assessment, and service is completed in that location. For example:
The Physical Therapist (PT) works during a general education PE class to assist with accessibility ideas for games.
The therapist assists during math, designing and trying a menu of accommodations needed for Lonnie's handwriting difficulties.
The Occupational Therapist (OT) assists in art class with modifications needed for Mario to use a paintbrush and scissors effectively.
The Speech/Language Pathologist (SLP) works during language arts within the general education class to assist with augmentative communication devices.
The PT, OT, and SLP alternate accompanying Ms. Nygun's students on their community trips to the mall.
The number, frequency, and length of integrated therapy sessions can be flexible based on changes in the student's needs. For example, a new teacher, a new school, or the beginning of the school year may require more assistance and therapist time for modeling, training, and sharing. As the accommodations and strategies become part of the everyday program, the support may change to more consultative sessions for planning and monitoring. If a new piece of equipment is needed or new challenge occurs, more direct therapy can be increased again. Teachers who have worked together with a therapist in adaptations and integrated therapy may not need as much consultation as a newer team member.
With integrated therapy, the IEP is a trans-disciplinary process allowing for goals and objectives to be written jointly and monitored across all settings. The IEP is not prepared ahead of time with separate sections for each related service. The IEP team works collaboratively to write all objectives, which address motor, language, mobility, sensory, or physical needs integrated throughout various subjects and settings. The IEP team uses an ecological assessment from a variety of sources, then prioritizes the needed interventions. The team uses discussion and consensus to make decisions.
The trans-disciplinary IEP present level of performance looks different than the traditional list of strengths and weaknesses. It emphasizes student strengths and support needs. It documents the types of supports and interventions that have been successful.
By planning together, teachers and therapists design open-ended activities, alternative communication or mobility goals, language opportunities, and support strategies which the educators then add to their repertoire for future use with many kinds of students.
Teachers, therapists, and paraprofessionals all work in various combinations to provide support in integrated therapy. Roles are expanded to incorporate co-teaching and a variety of collaborative styles. For example:
The OT shows the whole class an organizational strategy for note taking, which is not only useful for Patrice, a student with a learning disability, but for the entire class.
The teacher may facilitate cooperative groups, while the PT assures correct positioning of Raymond in a stander within his group. She answers student questions about the equipment, modeling awareness and understanding of disabilities for his peers.
The SLP is present during reading class to determine if Shevone's hearing impairment is impeding her participation and understanding, and whether she needs alternative support to benefit from the class.
The SLP co-teaches a social studies lesson with the teacher. They demonstrate steps for preparing and presenting an historical character report. Afterwards, in smaller groups, the SLP specifically guides and monitors two of her students as they plan for their oral character reports.
The PT observes Hun's class, noting physical barriers to some learning centers in the room.
The SLP observes during a class social activity to assess frequency and effectiveness of Celina's social skills with initiating conversations with peers and requesting assistance or more information.
Between visits, the therapists and teachers can use a communication log to discuss concerns and ask questions. The educators share ideas and record attempted interventions and results. The log is initialed at each session. While this log should never replace discussion and physical meetings, it can bridge disciplines, eliminating the frequently ineffective "questions on the fly" (in the workroom, hall, or even during class instruction time).