Needless to say, engaging in regular exercise improves your heart, digestive, respiratory, muscular, skeletal, and mental health. Exercise can strengthen the heart, improve blood circulation, tone muscles, and enhance flexibility, all of which affect your overall health. Regular exercising can also have emotional, social, and behavioural benefits beyond the physical.
From kids to adults, exercise is good for everyone, and people with special needs like autism and ADHD are no exception. Getting regular fitness can improve thinking ability, and it may improve the symptoms of ADHD. Exercise can also reduce problem behaviours such as repetitive behaviours, off-task behaviour, mouthing, self-injury, disruptiveness, and aggression in those with autism.
However, working out can be quite challenging for kids with limited physical abilities or specific sensory needs. These kids require special attention and specific necessities that other children do not, and working out is not an exception.
There are many adaptive sports and fitness programs that include sensory-specific exercises dedicated to kids with special needs. Thanks to hundreds of sensory training tools, these kids can still participate in and enjoy many fitness activities even when their mobility is limited, or their bodies tire easily. General exercise help with hyperactivity, but sensory play can also reduce sensitivity in kids and adults that suffer from sensory disorders. This type of play involves sensory integration exercises which improve both physical and social function in all children.
Creating a Sensory Gym
A sensory gym is a room for active sensory play and it includes sensory equipment such as swings, trampolines, therapy balls, and other tools, all designed to provide proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input. Sensory rooms and sensory gyms support sensory integration therapy, occupational therapy for autism, sensory fitness, and physical or occupational therapy needs.
Most of the time, kids with special needs like autism like to socialize and interact in any way. Hence, enrolling your child in a sensory gym is a great idea for socializing with other kids. Sensory gyms are kid-friendly stations with bright walls and look more like a playground than an actual gym. But that’s just it, a sensory gym is a paradise and a therapy room rolled into one.
In addition, having a sensory room in your home, or at your child’s school, equips you with productive sensory spaces for therapy when and where your kid needs them and can benefit from them the most. Active sensory play can lead to a calmer, more focused child and can head off many meltdowns. It can also increase independence, ease in social situations, and raise tolerance to new stimuli.
Sensory Movement Resources for a Proper Sensory Gym
While a sensory gym is a great option, you can also make fun sensory play available at the very comfort of your home. Depending on your budget and your preference, you might consider renovating a room to accommodate all the necessary sensory gym equipment. There are various categories of sensory gym equipment, depending on the kind of stimulation that a child needs.
When buying sensory workout equipment, you will find many different exercising tools and other relevant products, but not all of them will be suitable for your kid. Each child responds differently to sensory information, therefore sensory movement resources should be individualised to meet the unique needs of each child.
Let’s take a look at some different training tools that can help kids with special needs develop sensory integration:
Sensory swings are very powerful tools and occupational therapists have been using them in sensory therapy for years. They support and encourage any child’s development, and especially provide therapeutic benefits for children with sensory needs, SPD, ADHD, or autism. Available in different shapes and sizes, sensory swings are a fantastic way to engage your child’s vestibular sensory system, which is basically controlling behaviour such as balance and movement.
Swinging also provides stimulation for the proprioceptive senses, hence strengthening your child’s coordination skills. There is a wide range of sensory swings that you can choose from, including platform swings, pod swings, sensory nest swings, and occupational therapy swings.
Steppers or Balance Beams
Steppers or balance beams are effective sensory workout equipment for children with autism and other special needs. Most of these sensory tools include textured surfaces and hence promote exploration of sensory input. They encourage sensory play, helping kids build lower body strength with movement on and off a beam, and improve their visual and tactile sensory skills. The size of the steps or beams can vary, from small to medium to large sizes. You can use a different step or beam size to encourage developing balance and coordination, and hence make this sensory play more fun.
Sensory tunnels provide wonderful therapy to children with special needs like autism and ADHD. These large, stretchy, tube-shaped pieces of fabric allow kids to crawl through, hence giving them a certain thrill that is vital in sensory play. Sensory tunnels give children lots of tactile and proprioceptive feedback, improve their bilateral coordination, and foster confidence by helping them overcome their fear of narrow spaces. For children who need visual stimulation, there is a wide range of colourful tunnels that are visually appealing and hence improve their visual sensory skills.
Trampolines are quite beneficial for children with special needs. Aerobic activity such as a trampoline can improve your child’s vestibular, proprioception, and visual sensory senses. Playing trampoline releases endorphin hormones, hence increasing the feeling of pleasure and well-being, and relieving stress among children with autism and ADHD. Trampolines are probably one of the safest equipment choices that you can use both in the gym and at home.