By: Santina Bambaci MS, OTR/L
In elementary school, we were taught about the five senses; sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. However, in reality, we have eight senses. These sensory systems help us navigate and explore our environment.
The three “hidden” senses are vestibular (movement sense), proprioception (joint sense), and interoception (organ sense). When the eight senses are integrated, they give our bodies the feedback needed for efficient regulation and skill development.
However, if one sense is over or under-responsive to sensory input, it may cause challenges with self-regulation, attention, and skill development. For example, if a child is over-responsive to touch, he/she may feel uncomfortable with different clothing textures or avoid getting wet or messy. This difference in the child’s sensory system would make it very challenging to get through the day. This is where the benefits of occupational therapy come into play.
Occupational Therapy Equipment
Occupational therapy is a delicate balance of science and art. The key to integrating these sensory systems is to provide sensory input specific to each child during therapy to improve self-regulation, attention, and motor skills. Therapy is an individualized approach that incorporates many fun activities that address the integration of the senses. Using a vast array of gym equipment which can be found in our occupational therapy gym is one way to target this goal.
Let’s take a closer look at each power sense and the corresponding gym equipment.
Playing in sensory bins (e.g., kinetic sand, rice, beans), shaving cream and bubbles are great ways to introduce a child to different textures. The rainbow swing is another great tool in the occupational therapist’s tool kit. Not only does it provide vestibular and proprioceptive input, but it also provides tactile input as the child is lightly cuddled while swinging, bouncing, and climbing.
Proprioception (body awareness)
Equipment such as the trampoline, ladders, rainbow swing, therapy ball, scooters, and TheraPutty place resistance on a child’s joints which elicits a grounding sensation and builds upon their body awareness. Aside from the proprioceptive input, this equipment also targets core strength, upper body strength, and bilateral coordination.
Vestibular (body movements)
Equipment such as the platform swing, scooters, roller slide, moon swing, and trapeze swing provide both linear and rotary movement to help organize a child’s vestibular system.
Each piece of equipment helps us target specific skills and provide goal-driven therapy while giving kids the chance to have fun. The equipment pictured here is only a small selection of the equipment we utilize, so there is lots of fun to be had. If you have questions about the equipment discussed above or would like to know more about occupational therapy, contact us today!