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How a Sensory Gym Benefits Child Development

July 20, 2016 by Kinetic Kids, Inc.

Child Development

What is a Sensory Gym?

Unlike your standard fitness gyms that use treadmills and weights, a sensory gym is specifically geared for child development.

A sensory gym uses bright, bold colors with different kid friendly stations, and consists of covered swings, ball pits, and climbing walls; essentially, it is a utopia for children (Dean, 2015). This is a structured environment, particularly for children with special needs, which helps child development in their sensory, communication, gross and fine motor skills (Dean, 2015). In addition to providing health and fitness benefits of a regular gym, sensory gyms also enhance a child's self-esteem and social skills. They are becoming popular across the country, at schools, hospitals, and private therapy clinics, like that of Kinetic Kids, Inc., located in the Dilworth area of Charlotte, North Carolina.


Would Your Child Benefit From Using a Sensory Gym?

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Sensory gyms are great for children of all abilities as they provide a wonderful opportunity for to enhance one physical (balance and body awareness, fine motor skills, coordination) and cognitive (cause-and-effect reasoning and social development) skills, in a fun, non-threatening way. Sensory gyms are especially useful for children with special needs as they create a stress-free environment, where they can process information more efficiently and with less frustration than in traditional, classroom settings (Dean, 2015).

Sensory gyms help child development in physical, occupational, or speech services.

Children, who have the following diagnosis, would benefit:

Physical Therapy

· Gross motor developmental delays

· Orthopedic injuries

· Cerebral palsy

· Spina bifida

· Down syndrome

· Brain injuries

· Autism spectrum disorders

· Low muscle tone

· Torticollis

· Toe walking

· Coordination difficulties

Occupational Therapy

· Autism spectrum disorders (Autism, Asperger’s, PDD-NOS)

· Sensory integration disorders

· Dysgraphia (difficulty with handwriting)

· Down syndrome

· Genetic disorders

· Cerebral palsy

· Spina bifida

· Visual deficits

· Developmental delays

· Seizure disorders

· Brain injuries

· Feeding issues

· Oral motor skills

· ADD/ADHD

· Learning disorders

· Microcephaly

· Equipment needs assessment

Speech Therapy

· Hearing impairments

· Cognitive disorders

· Developmental delays

· Poor oral motor skills

· Cerebral palsy

· Birth defects (cleft lip and cleft palate)

· Autism spectrum disorders

· Motor planning (Apraxia)

· Swallowing disorders

· Traumatic brain injuries


How Would You Know If Your Child Would Benefit?

(1) Your child needs constant stimulation or has hyposensitivity. If your child craves constant spinning, jumping on couches, crashing into walls, climbing, and so on, a sensory gym would be helpful in processing and developing his or her sensory skills (Dean, 2015).

(2) Your child avoids sensory input or has hypersensitivity. If your child dislikes different textures, sounds, touch, and general experiences, use of a sensory

gym and assist the child in managing sensory information (Dean, 2015).

(3) Your Child is Lethargic. Unengaged, unable to tolerate typical stimulation, and is often lethargic are characteristics that might be linked to your child, he or she would benefit from using a sensory gym, to practice responding to varying forms of sensory stimulation (Dean, 2015).

(4) Your Child Needs to be Motivated to Engage in Physical Activity. Perhaps your child does not have adequate motor control, like children who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or Spina Bifida. A sensory gym offers your child the opportunity to and motivation to use different muscle groups in a safe, friendly environment (Dean, 2015).

In conclusion, sensory gyms benefit children with and without sensory disorders, regardless of their level of ability. These gyms specially help those who need to enhance their motor, social, and sensory skills (Dean, 2015). It serves to compliment the skills of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, by providing a safe, fun haven for all kids to improve not only on their physical skills, but also to process information in a socially engaging, non-threatening manner.

If your child has difficulty processing information, introduce your child to a sensory gym and see his or her reaction! You will find that your child will begin to master a variety of skills, where it would now be much easier for him or her to acquire new skills, learn new information, and grow.


Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist

The purpose of this sensory processing disorder checklist is to help parents become educated about particular signs of sensory processing dysfunction.

It is not to be used as the absolute diagnostic criteria for labeling children with sensory processing disorder. But rather, as an educational tool and checklist for your own knowledge. 

As you go through this list, you may say, "My goodness, my child has so many of these characteristics or behaviors, s/he must have a sensory processing disorder!!"

That MAY be true, but take it very seriously if you find that many of these to be characteristics are a true reflection of your child. Afterward, then use this as a guide to speak with your doctor and an occupational therapist so you can clearly explain why you think your child may need help.

Or, you may go through the list and say,

"No big deal, so my child has some of these behaviors/characteristics, doesn't every child?"

Well, this may be true too and your child's behavior may fluctuate from day to day.

What we need to be concerned with is which symptoms your child shows, which category they are having difficulty with, how much it interferes with their or other's lives and what kind of impact it is having on their level of functioning. They may have a lot in one category and none in another or some in all categories. The following checklist will help target diagnosis and treatment:

Sample Checklist For Parents With Sensory Concerns


Reference:

Dean, R. (2015, January). How to determine whether your child could benefit from a sensory gym. Retrieved January 25, 2015,

from http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1067831/how-to-determine-whether-your-child-could-benefit-from-a-sensory-gym

Topics: Sensory Gym, Pediatric Occupation Therapy

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