Monday, January 27, 2014

T-ing Up Activities

Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L

Regardless if you are a teacher or a therapist, you find that as you plan activities in the clinic or classroom you often focus in on just one or two benefits to the task at hand.  For example, what is the skill being addressed, what will a child learn or what will they improve or focus on?  Often times, the one component that is very key and overlooked is positioning.  For example, we tend to think that children should always have their work placed on the desk in the middle, but for some children with visual perceptual issues, a simple shift in positioning can make a world of difference.  In addition, we think that most seating arrangements should work for all children regardless of height or comfort, strength or stability, and we tend to perform most therapeutic tasks in standing or sitting at a table or desk. However, you may find that just a slight change of using a T-stool, therapy ball or Southpaw's new Togo seat can increase the benefits by addressing core strengthening, balance and vestibular input.  Therefore, seating and position are important!

Therapy balls are commonplace in most therapy settings, and more and more schools have them available for seating options.  Therapy balls come in a variety of sizes and can be inflated differently offering various amounts of vestibular input.  When used for sitting and positioning, balls offer just enough movement and bounce to increase alertness, addressing focus and attention.  They help improve trunk stability and balance when used dynamically during activities.  Having a child sit upright on a therapy ball that allows the child to comfortably place her feet on the floor and participate in Zoomball allows you to address balance, trunk strengthening, and weight shifting with additional vestibular input.  So now, an ideal activity for bilateral coordination, shoulder stability, and visual attention just got better!

Anyone who has ever heard Carol Kranowitz (author of The Out-of-Sync Child) speak, knows that early on, once seeing the benefits of t-stools, had all of her preschool children sitting on them during circle time.  T-stools are a very beneficial piece of equipment that are often overlooked.  They are great because anyone of any size can use a properly fitted one.  T-stools hone in on really activating the core trunk muscles increasing a child's balance.  Because they require so much stability and weight bearing through the legs, when you add an activity with them, such as a bean bag toss where the child has to obtain the bean bags off the ground and toss at a target, the challenge and benefits are numerous.  They are also ideal for sitting with increased focus and attention, much like Carol has her preschoolers doing.  They do not allow for much slouching and slacking, and a slight wrong shift of weight can cause a child to tip. 

Southpaw's new Togo seat offers the benefits of both a therapy ball and t-stool in one.  It is great at addressing core strengthening and balance with a little bit of vestibular input improving focus and attention.  In addition, the seat also comes in two different seat bases, allowing a slight difference in support.   In a classroom, the Togo seat offers the ability to keep the wiggly child paying attention to the teacher with a slight bit of movement that is now distracting to the whole class, and takes up less space then a therapy ball.

So before you finish your plan on your next activity, see how you can increase the benefits with these fun pieces of equipment.