Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Products in Motion: Southpaw's Cocoon Swing

Dr. Catherine Hoyt OTD, OTR/L

In pediatric occupational therapy, we focus on participation in skills and activities appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. We also have to consider what is important to our client; which in pediatrics is the child as well as the family.  Addressing the child's needs and the family's goals can sometimes be a challenge. The appropriate equipment can help us to foster adaptive responses to engage the child in play, the main occupation of children.

For one 4 year old child, John, his family really wanted him to be able to play with children his age doing typical pre-kindergarten activities such as finger painting, swinging, listening to music, attending large parties and eating treats. John is a happy, energetic and bright little boy, but some of these experiences caused him a lot of anxiety and he would say things like "I'm afraid I won't like it" or "I'm scared".   John was scared of going into any space that was at all dark or restrained his movement in any way.

We used the Cocoon Swing because it provided an experience where he was able to challenge himself while still feeling safe. The swing let him sit comfortably and have a bit of reduced lighting while still being able to see out.  The Cocoon Swing also let him experience a bit of pressure from the fabric of the swing but still have the flexibility to move his body.  The Cocoon Swing was a little scary to him at first, but he was able to manage that anxiety because it provides the just right amount of comfort by being able to see through the fabric and out the top. It also provided the deep pressure around his body, which was calming to him. It helped John develop the capacity to challenge his fears knowing that he is able to overcome them.  John continues to face challenging activities and he is still learning,  but this swing has helped us move forward in therapy.

Bike Riding: Stacking the Blocks to Success

Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L

Whether you are driving through your neighborhood, the local park, or down a busy avenue, you will almost always catch someone riding a bike.  Bike riding is a universal activity that is enjoyed by people both big and small.  We tend to think that it is a rite of passage during childhood, moving from training wheels to the ultimate two-wheeler, and often hear the phrase, "it is as easy as riding a bike".  However, that is not the case at all.  Bike riding is one of the most complex activities to master, and for our children with sensory processing difficulties and special needs, it appears to be as challenging as climbing Mount Everest.  May is National Bike Month, and with summer sneaking around the corner, it is the perfect time to focus on this. 

If we take a look at the 'building blocks' to bike riding we see that it involves much more than just progression, growth and development.  Bike riding entails balance, bilateral coordination, trunk and shoulder stability and visual skills, as well as the cognitive abilities to discern safety and direction following. Therefore, we need to be cautious and aware of where the break down of skills are for our children before we just plop them on the seat and tell them to "go".  And we need to ensure their comfort level so that we keep them feeling safe and not losing their confidence. 

Improving a child's core stability, including trunk and shoulder control will help enhance his or her overall balance, which is required for successful bike riding.  This is where many of those therapy ball activities come into play, both in upright sitting and the prone position.  In addition, utilizing the bolster or disk swing helps with improving trunk control, while offering a bit of movement.  Increasing the challenge to the task by including a hand-eye coordination activity is always beneficial for incorporating the necessary visual skills for success.  T-stool and scooter board activities, as well as wheelbarrow and animal walks are just a few other ways to help improve this 'building block'.

When looking at balance, performing activities on a balance board or disk can be beneficial.  Especially those that require a good amount of weight shifting, such as obtaining bean bags from the floor and then having the child toss them into a target.  Performing activities that encourage one-foot balance and utilizing balance beams are quick and easy ways to address this 'building block'.

Bilateral coordination can be addressed with a variety of activities, but those that encourage reciprocated movement are ideal, such as climbing a rock wall, ladder, or rope pulls.  In addition, the Pedal Walker is a great way to help children get the feel and movement pattern needed for pedaling a bike.  Cross-crawls, jumping jacks, and reciprocated jumps are quick and easy and can be done in any environment.

Visual skills often are the ones that tend to impede success.  It is not easy to steer a bike while looking at the ground, as well as visual skills are apparent for balance.  Strengthening them can be incorporated into almost an activity.  As mentioned above, those that require hand-eye coordination while the rest of the body is doing something are most beneficial.  Activities that entail keeping the head upright should be utilized, including target throwing and ball catching.

With just a few suggestions to help improve the 'building block' skills, once these components are strengthened, it is time to work on removing those training wheels.  It goes without saying, but it is always important to make sure that the safety gear is on, including helmet and pads, both elbow and knee.  It is important to show your child how to stop the bike, using his or her feet to regain balance and control.  And do not be afraid to let them feel what it is like to fall.  This will take away some of the fear when it happens, because, it will! Starting off in a grassy area is ideal, and sometimes using a spot with a slight slope will give them both natural movement and encourage them to learn how to use the breaking system. 

Bike riding is not just a physical activity that offers movement and exercise it also allows individuals mobility to get around, socialization with peers, and the ability to explore.  Therefore, finding other options to help your child get the bike riding experience, such as a specialized tricycle, the Southpaw Hand Cycle, or a youth trailer cycle that attaches to the back of an adult's bike, such as the WeeRide Co-Pilot, may be beneficial.

So, now is the time to stack those building blocks, helping our children to get out there and enjoy the fun of bike riding....Happy Trails!