When parents of children with special needs come in to our gym they often ask me, “What is the purpose of all this equipment? What purpose does it serve?”
In pediatrics it’s really important to remember that it’s all about play! We do occupational therapy through play—we call it “purposeful play.”
We have a 10-station obstacle course, and a rock-climbing wall. We change it around on a weekly basis, we add in new things, and we let the clients change things around. But the importance of it is this—I could have a client dressed up like Spiderman, going through this course thinking that he’s leaping tall buildings. He’s having a great time! But here’s what’s really going on:
1. Motor Planning
The child has to figure out: How do I use my hands? How do I use my feet? And how do I get from point A to point B to point C without ever touching the floor? What do I need to do next? And how do I communicate when I need help to do that?
2. Visual and Perceptual Planning
On the rock wall, for instance, the child has to plan where they are and where they need to be in relation to the rocks.
The child has to learn to use his hands and feet together to get where he wants to go. Also, the kids learn to do things that cross the middle line. (We call this bilateral integration.)
4. Managing heights
This equipment also provides an opportunity to deal with being at heights rather than being on the floor. This can be very important because some of our kids don’t like to be at a height, they like to be on the floor where they’re more gravitationally comfortable. The rock-climbing wall is especially good for helping kids learn to deal with heights.
5. Vestibular Function
When children go down the slide, that uses the inner ear and helps organize the ears and the eyes to work together.
So yes, it’s purposeful play and that’s what we love about it! But it’s serving a important purpose, and the kids are getting better. We’d love for you come by and check out our gym areas! To schedule a tour, give us a call at 469-675-3153 (Allen/Dallas area) or 281-769-1015 (Katy/Houston area).