Rough and Tumble, Movement Experiences – A really important type of play for all children, especially children with physical disabilities.

Rough and Tumble:

Click on image and it takes you to a great blog ‘The Inspired Treehouse’

This type of play has important developmental significance in a number of  areas and is rich with sensory experiences. It can help your child learn about where their body is in space; improve their balance; regulate their responses to movement, touch, sounds, sights and smells as well as better understand the significance behind a particular, texture, movement, or sound.

Children with Cerebral Palsy or similar physical impairments may have or have had limited opportunities for this type of play. Think of children from 4/5 months rolling along a mat, maybe tipping forward off the edge, then a bit later crawling and climbing onto a sofa – maybe falling off it. By the age of 1 year/18 months, children typically have climbed onto chairs, tables, window sills, draws, Mum, Dad, in and out of their cots… – you get the idea, they will have been on swings, up climbing frames and down slides. We are born to be adventurous explorers and children explore by moving around and climbing onto things, falling off things and trying again.

It is really, really important that children who can’t physically explore this way independently are supported to explore using movement, are allowed to make mistakes (maybe not falling off a table – no one needs to do that – but I hope you see my point), they need to be thrown in the air, to go on a roller coaster, be hung upside down.

Children with Physical disabilities are reliant on trusted adults to help them experience different ways of moving through space and to enjoy and experience sensory movement experiences in a safe way.

Think about different types of movement experiences your child has experienced…

Have they been:

  • On a swing; on a roundabout or down a slide?
  • Tickled and rolled around on the bed?
  • Thrown into the air and caught?
  • Rolled over and over and over along the floor or down a hill?
  • Tipped forward head first in your arms/over a therapy ball, off the end of their bed?
  • Tipped backwards off the end of their bed, out of your arms/over a therapy ball?
  • In a lift/ car/ train?

If they haven’t then think of ways you could support them to experience some of those things.

Then watch and see how do they respond?

How does your child show that they either like or dislike certain activities or movements?

  • Do they smile,
  • do the laugh,
  • do they shout for “more” or for “no more”
  • do they stiffen their body,
  • do they relax,
  • do they cry or panic.
  • do they close, rub, widen or scrunch their eyes,
  • do they get sick?

All of these are important signs to help you understand what your child is feeling and how high or long or far you should go with the movement.

Remember movements affect the brain differently, some can be very arousing, exciting and alerting and others can be very soothing, calming and organising.

Head position influences how calming or how exciting a movement is, the direction of the movement and what other sensory information the child is processing during the movement can make a movement more or less arousing and scary.

Some guidance/ things to start you off using movement with your child:

To calm and sooth (which may then help your child to rest, notice, process or tolerate other sensory information (touch/ sounds/ visual information & information about where their body is in space). To wake up and excite (which may then help your child to notice, process or tolerate other sensory information (touch/ sounds/ visual information & information about where their body is in space).
Rhythmical movements, side to side, up and down or forward and back are more calming Spinning movements and movements where your head is tipped forward or backwards ‘wake up the sensory system’
Support head in an upright position and squeeze, press hold your child tightly during & after the movement reassures and dampens to calm. Movement with varying speeds and stops and starts is more excitatory, changes in directions and head position will be more arousing.
Sing calm, rhythmical, repetetive songs during movement. Music and singing that is upbeat, louder with varying speeds and volumes will be more arousing.
Rhythmically swinging/ rocking child side to side with them held firmly in your arms Swinging child in your arms with varying speeds, directions, heights and stops and starts.

Going on a roundabout.

Bouncing your child rhythmically up and down with them held firmly in your arms Bouncing your child up and down varying speeds, directions, heights and stops and starts.
Walking with your child securly held in a baby sling against your chest Rolling your child along the mat onto their tummy, then their back and tummy again.
Sitting on a therapy ball boucing gently and rhythmically up and down on ball, supporting your child firmly and securly holding their head upright. Sitting on a therapy ball (with your child if needed) and bouncing up and down varying speeds, directions, heights and stops and starts.
Supporting your child to stand against the therapy ball and gently rocking side to side with the ball (their body fully supported against ball). Lying prone (on their tummy) over a therapy ball rocking forwards and backwards.

Lying backwards, tiping back over the ball or your legs will ‘wake up’ the system.

Sitting on a swing with them held firmly in your arms and swinging gently forward and back. Swinging with your child on a swing (with them sat on your knee, held firmly and securely) varying speeds, directions, heights and stops and starts.

Use movements/ experiences and tips from both coloumns to help your child enjoy exploring different movement experiences and / or to feel clamer and better able to be still and able to attend and use other sensors to learn about the world.

If you feel you need support with this then chat to your child’s Physio or Occupational Therapist if they are known to therapy services. If they arn’t but you have concerns or worries then you can also call your local therapy team and ask for advice, or email/ call me – or post a comment.

I also gave some more ideas about how different sensory inputs can be used practically to help children and babies (with and without disabilities) in the comments on my last post – take a look.

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