Monday, October 17, 2011

Sneaking in therapy for kids with special needs

I've always got therapy on the brain. Not the kind I could use (though I am sure my worrywart tendencies would benefit from some shrink-age)—the kind Max needs. He gets assorted physical, occupational and speech sessions six days a week. Thing is, the sessions are just 45 minutes to an hour long, and it's the ways we put those therapy techniques into practice that matter most.

This used to overwhelm me when Max was younger. We had this one therapist who would leave me a full sheet of stuff to do with him. She meant well but I always felt guilty for not being able to do every single thing. Over time, I've learned to do what I can, and feel OK about that.

I get psyched when I figure out stuff that's both fun and beneficial for Max. And if it makes our house look cool? Jackpot! This weekend, we discovered the power of Halloween spider webs.

Max was totally into draping them over the bushes in front of our house and attaching the plastic spiders. They gave his fingers a good workout. I think Sabrina was slightly miffed to see Max in action because she assumed she'd be doing them herself.

Max also helped Dave put up a little ghost ornament for the lawn. Then we lined up some baby pumpkins on the front porch. Max was totally loving it. Too bad he wasn't into raking the lawn, which could especially come in handy.

Got any good ways to sneak in therapy? And how's the outside of your house looking these days? Max would be glad to put up some spider webs.


  1. You're spot on with this one Ellen.
    The therapy we had for Ashley early on was as dull as dishwater and we had to learn that adapting the exercise to suit yor kid is vital for success.
    Eventually it becomes a lifestyle.
    Fun works!

  2. Love being sneaky! Our favorite covert operation is the dog. We avoided getting one forever because of my allergies, but after the last surgery, we decided to dive in. Best. Idea. Ever. Boy Genius has never been so active in his entire life. Gets him up and running, bending, jumping, twisting, turning, moving. It's tops for sensory integration issues and anxiety, as well. I'm totally on allergy shots, but who cares. The payoff is worth it!

  3. everything is therapy with sammmy. carrying in the groceries (sensory/calming) weeding (deep muscle crossing midline and motor planning) putting away dishes (fine motor planning, sorting and figure ground)ect... we focus a lot on sensory therapy. he struggles with sensory seeking

  4. Ah, Annemarie above me has given almost my exact answer! We too have a sensory seeker, and have learned to incorporate therapy into just about everything. (She also had language delays and still has some gross motor issues, though she's officially "graduated" from actual PT.)

    It's funny - during one of our fights with the school district to get them to incorporate more sensory input for her into her daily classroom routine (she has an IEP, but they weren't really enthusiastic about, y'know, following it...), one of the administrators on the other side of the table said, rather disdainfully, "So, what do you do with her at home? Do you actually do sensory breaks three times a day?!" My husband and I cracked up and proceeded to tell them that we don't do sensory breaks with her at home, we live a sensory lifestyle. EVERYTHING is thought of in terms of how it could potentially help in providing her with the therapy she needs. (I also mentioned that where most folks have a coffee table in their living room, we had a mini-trampoline.) We went on at length about how we incorporate therapy into everything until they finally saw our point.

    I'd love for Max to come decorate our yard for Halloween, but my husband hates spiders so I don't think he'd allow fake ones. (Also, we live about six hours away - though we do own a Sienna so I betcha Max would love the commute...)

  5. Try making something made of dough and get Max to roll the dough out with his hands or put some small coins on the table and ask him to bring it to you. I do both it has really improved my motor skills :)

  6. Id love to hear more things like this, my son gets his therapies at school and I have no idea what goes on or get things to do at home. Thanks !

  7. Dave: ideally, therapy shouldn't be "dull"! Not every therapist is a genius, but a good one should know how to make a session engaging and fun for kids.

    Annemarie and Heather, excellent point about how this should all be a lifestyle thing. We try. Max's sensory issues mostly relate to crowds/noise, so when we're hanging at home our focus isn't on sensory issues as much as they are around encouraging him to use his hands and to get him to try and verbalize stuff.

    Nisah: We've done the dough thing, both for baking and the Play-doh kind! Purple Play-doh = very motivating!

    Julia: Brilliant, as always. Perhaps, if I find purple dust rags, he can do even more housekeeping! The possibilities are endless! Bwah-hah-hah-hah

    And onemomstips: For years, I have had Max's therapists at school send me weekly emails about what they worked on at school, and what I can work on at home. They all cc each other so the team knows what's going on. Some therapists are better about emailing than others. If they aren't into emailing at all, they can send home notes. Also, I've arranged conference calls between our school therapists and private ones. It isn't easy to coordinate, but worth it. It's Team Max, and everyone should ideally be working toward the same goals!

  8. Of course we love play dough--a toy that works as an amazing therapy well as puzzles, blocks and any other "fun" therapy type toy. Sometimes toys themselves are the best type of therapy tools we have!

    Sam loves bags and cooking so while I make a salad, I allow her to make her own "salad" in a zip-lock bag and she has the time of her life putting things in the bag.

    Also, she loves throwing things in the trash (at times things she shouldn't!). So I will allow her to throw out trash type things on purpose--not just for a "chore" but because depending on how far the can is, or the type of can...she has to use her motor skills to get there and get the trash inside (one requires a little skill to open).

    Brushing the cats is another good one although she is not THAT good at it. Luckily we have understanding cats (well, for her anyway).

    Handing me things to put away from the dishwasher (be careful of the breakables....despite trying our best sometimes accidents happen).

    Trying to work the ipad as best she can.

    Truthfully, as life is what it is, I consider anything she does to be "therapy".

  9. with special needs kids brings out the sneak in you. I also have kids wiht special needs and it makes life interesting.

    leona from fourkidsandthemom

  10. Max can definitely stop over and do our spiderwebs and the rest of our decorations. We usually have a party every year for Halloween but we had to cancel it this year and haven't really felt like decorating yet. Please feel free to send him over so he can decorate. ;)

  11. What about lego? My mom used to buy Barbie with tight clothes with lots of buttons and pants and stuff that I had to work to get on.

    Are there any action figures that could work with little stuff that needs to be picked up/positioned? Lightsabers for the hands... or transformers. He would have to manipulate them to change them from cars to whatever they become..gorillas? people?

  12. There are no real life experiences that you could offer children that are not therapeutic. Cooking (especially baking), carrying groceries, putting them away, pulling/pushing laundry bags/baskets... the list continues. These activities build strength and independence. Just make sure to check your local child-labor laws!!!

  13. My son's special needs are mostly limited to his vision...which has mostly been corrected, thankfully! But, I was *elated* when his eye doctor told me that he NEEDS to play video games!!! As long as my son played the games with his good eye patched (covered), then I was to allow him to play as much as he wanted. It was a great workout for his "bad" eye, and for his hand-eye coordination.

  14. Love this! We are talking so much about this these days-- *how* can we, as therapists, work with families to truly integrate what we know is best for a child into what what is best for the *family*-- how do we help integrate what we do into the context of a family's daily life so that the child still progresses but the family is not completely overwhelmed (and moms aren't always feeling guilty!) ? It's such a challenge for us (we do like our homework assignments!) but so important I think. We're getting there....slowly, slowly. This post makes me think we are headed in the right direction. :)

  15. Everyone has such amazing ideas! I enjoyed reading them. It's so great to incorporate it into everyday life and make it pertinent.

    At The Messy Artist, we filled an entire classroom with colored shredded paper about 2 feet high! It was so awesome. The kids were jumping in it, throwing it and hiding in it. The paper also makes a great rustling sound and is visually stimulating. I always try for activities that are multi-sensory. It's a great way to recycle your magazines.


Thanks for sharing!

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