Autism is a broad term for a variety of developmental disorders. Children on the autism spectrum can suffer from lack of verbal development, problems focusing, or even a lack of fine motor skill development. One problem children may encounter is the need to stimulate their vestibular system. Sensory integration therapy can utilize the play activity of swinging to help children process environmental stimuli. Below is a video explaining the setup of a vestibular swing used to help children maintain focus.
Many children have difficulty processing environmental stimuli and this can contribute to emotional and behavioral problems. This sensory processing disorder (a.k.a. sensory integration dysfunction) can create issues with coordination, difficulty engaging in conversation or play, as well as the inability to determine where their limbs are in space. This can lead to everyday sounds or other types of external stimuli to cause children to react in a negative manner. While these reactions may be common in just about every child from time to time, it’s when these symptoms become problematic or severe enough to disrupt normal functioning or everyday life. Treatment for this disorder can vary depending upon your child’s specific needs, but a common thread is treatment through a fun and playful manner. Many times, occupational therapists, use a vestibular swing that can help children acclimate to motion and their spatial relation to the environment around them. This type of therapy can help autistic children with balance and may cause children to adhere to a therapy program based on a vestibular swing more so since it is more like play then therapy. This allows children to have better control and understanding of the bodies and can have a relaxing effect while allowing them to increase their awareness simply by swinging. To further enhance any therapy session, the use of a sensory wrap can employ deep pressure therapy. This can have a calming effect on autistic children by having their bodies release the hormone dopamine which calms their nervous system.
With a vestibular swing that benefits autistic children, how can we maximize any therapy? Many children on the autism spectrum can benefit from deep sensory pressure, especially those who have difficulty with sensory processing issues in order to stay calm and focused. So incorporating a sensory wrap for any swing system can provide vestibular and proprioceptive therapy all at once. This can make any therapy program more efficient for children who benefit from deep touch therapy in order to calm their nervous systems by releasing dopamine. For children who may not require pressure therapy to be incorporated in their vestibular therapy, a platform board or even a balance buddy bolster swing can help increase muscle strength and postural control while improving gross motor skill development all while creating a fun and safe atmosphere for the child.
Every autistic child is special and so is their therapy. For children that can benefit from vestibular and deep pressure therapy, a sensory wrap for a vestibular swing cannot only be a benefit in an inpatient setting but also at home. A big key is to make sure that any therapy program can be done in a safe, fun manner while maximizing any learning or developmental benefit.