The JumpTherapy Blog:
Sensory Processing, Motor and Social Skills Resources
for Parents of Special Needs Children

Playing to Their Strengths: Developing Sensory Skills

The best results come when therapy is fun!

Part 3 of 5: Movement therapy

Moving in the right direction
When children are moving around and playing actively, they are strengthening many of their sensory systems at once: vision (seeing); auditory (hearing); tactile (touch); vestibular function (balance); proprioception (sense of muscle and joint movements). At the same time, they are physically building up their core muscles, which will improve their balance, ability to hold themselves upright, and sit. 
All this is important to prepare for a successful school career. For example, when children are spinning, climbing, and otherwise moving through space, they are boosting their vestibular system, located in the inner ear. In addition to controlling balance and letting us know where we are in space, the vestibular system integrates the visual, auditory, and tactile systems of the body. This is essential for reading fluently and writing clearly. It also controls alertness levels, which is necessary in order to be able to focus and learn. Playing on the equipment strengthens children’s core postural muscles, which are responsible for balance, holding oneself upright, and sitting in class.
A sensory gym and trained therapists will focus on all these areas, with your children acquiring all these skills while playing in spaces filled with fun equipment.
Getting a sense of a sensory gym
A sensory gym looks like a child’s dream play date space: an awesome playroom (or rooms). In reality, all the equipment is designed to be used by OTs to provide your child with tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input. The therapist utilizes swings, balls, balance equipment and various multisensory activities to help children organize input from their environment, and work on their core strength, balance, body awareness, gross and fine motor skills, language, sensory integration, behavior, attention, cause-and-effect reasoning, independence and social interaction skills. None of which they realize, because they’re too busy enjoying the entertainment.
A sensory gym is an inviting, safe space for children with special needs to build confidence, along with flexibility, strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, as they learn new skills and grow. The gym is set up to encourage exploring and trying new activities while increasing their comfort levels with sensory experiences and stimuli. 
Examples of equipment, toys, and spaces at a sensory gym:
– Various swings (tire, platform, harness, net, hammock)
– Trapeze bars
– Trampolines
– Climbing walls
– Climbing structures with platforms
– Monkey bars
– Stairs
– Ladders
– Slides
– Tunnels
– Spider webs
– Zip lines
– Ball pits
– Balance beams
– Ride-ons
– Scooters
– Therapy balls
– Bubbles
– Hiding places and cozy, pillowed nooks to take breaks in
Therapy that they’ll love to do
Your child’s OT will design an individual guided play program tailored for your child to meet his/her needs and goals. She or he will incorporate swings, ball pits, climbing walls and all kinds of toys — as well as fun and games — into your child’s therapy, guiding him or her through a variety of activities designed to elicit and normalize appropriate responses to stimuli, which carries over into typical everyday social situations and activities. 
Therapy + Fun = Great Results
A typical play center can be stressful and overwhelming for a sensory child. A sensory gym, on the other hand, is designed specifically for children with sensory processing disorders, where they are taught to play in a risk-free, appealing environment. As a child gains functionality, the OT raises the challenges so they are “just right” for the child’s new level, and introduces new exercises (games!).
You, the parent, are happy with the developmental improvements you will see. Your child is happy because s/he just sees fun.
Would your child love to have fun in an environment where his or her typically developing peers often play, but it’s just too overwhelming? 
I saw a hole in what we as occupational therapists and as parents offer our sensory kids. Often, these children miss out on childhood experiences and environments which in fact could greatly benefit them, if they were to encounter them with guidance from an OT. Experiences in exciting environments which provide natural opportunities to master sensory equipment — indoor inflatable play spaces.
Exciting equipment, energizing environment
That’s why I developed JumpTherapy. The inflatables are challenging and the environment is friendly, stimulating, and greatly appealing to children who want to be able to do what they see their peers having fun doing. 
Jumpstart their skills
Our experienced occupational therapists work in small groups with a 1:2 adult to child ratio, combining therapy with play to address each child’s unique needs within the group setting. They help your children master sensory motor skills, especially balance, timing, stamina, core control coordination, body in space awareness, motor planning, and bilateral integration. And they are also heavily focused on social skills development. Therapists facilitate skills such as eye contact and language, impulse control, turn taking, frustration tolerance, team building and sportsmanship. These are all essential to achievement in academic and non-academic settings, and in all aspects of everyday life. 
An additional benefit to you is that sessions at a JumpTherapy-affiliated playspace are more practical, more functional, and less costly than many other therapies.
The bottom line: Like our tagline says, your children will have “so much fun, they won’t believe it’s therapy.”
Looking ahead:
Coming up next: an in-depth look at art therapy and how to blend it into your at-home life.
Are your kids on the move? Could they be more active? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, let me know there or via email what topics you would like to discuss or hear more about. 
Feel free to share or quote from this blog (with attribution, please, and if possible, a link), and to repost on social media.
I look forward to hearing from you!

All the best,

About Miriam:
Miriam Skydell MS, OTR/L is a pediatric OT with 30 years experience and a strong commitment to empowering every child and every family with the skills, confidence and emotional stability necessary for a meaningful, independent life. In addition to her Masters degree from NYU (1986) and membership in the AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association), Miriam is a licensed Interactive Metronome®,  HWT (Handwriting Without Tears®), and TLP (The Listening Program®) provider.

Miriam performs preschool screenings, contracts experienced OTs, PTs and STs to schools, helped implement the HWT curriculum, and lectures extensively for parent and support groups and at teacher conferences for public and private schools throughout New Jersey. Through her private practice in Fair Lawn, Miriam Skydell and Associates, established in 1995, Miriam has helped countless children with a wide range of diagnoses improve functional living skills, manage the impact of sensory processing dysfunction, and meet their individual potentials.