When you have a child with a disability, specialized therapies are an important part of their care. Many children have difficulty reaching milestones without the help and expertise of trained therapists. The deliberate training and practice with a therapist helps them gain skills.
Physical therapy may help a child learn to hold their head up, sit, crawl, or walk. Occupational therapy might work on fine motor skills like writing, holding toys, and tying shoelaces. Speech therapy might focus on feeding, swallowing, speaking, or breath control. Other helpful therapies include aquatic therapy, massage therapy, therapeutic horse riding, and others.
While these therapies are good, and sometimes necessary, there are other options available to parents and their children. There are many daily activities that offer children natural opportunities to practice and perfect important skills.
It is not hard to find activities to practice gross motor skills. Playing at the playground encourages climbing, running, spinning, and crawling through tunnels. Playing team soccer offers chances to run, kick, spin, and jump. Walking down the street where you live and greeting neighbors is good walking, skipping, or running practice. A visit to the local trampoline park allows children to move, jump, roll, and maneuver in many different ways. These are all easy ways to replace some traditional therapies with more naturally occurring activities.
Similarly, there are many opportunities to practice fine motor skills each day. Playing with play dough or clay at home is a great way to exercise the hand and fingers. Playing in a tub of dry beans, sand, or rice is an easy sensory activity for home or at daycare. Making art projects with friends is another way to improve some good hand skills.
Socializing with friends is a good way to practice speech, vocabulary, and word choice. Talks with friends, neighbors, and family members occur naturally and can help with verbal skills. Chatting with kids on the playground or greeting the cashier at the grocery store are both ways to practice speech goals. Mealtime with the family can be a time for working on feeding skills.
There are certainly times when traditional therapy is the only way to go for your child. However, consider trying some naturally occurring activities in addition to therapies, or at times when your child resists therapy appointments. Sometimes with naturally occurring activities, the child doesn’t even realize they’re working on skills. It’s a win-win!
This page will give you more ideas for therapy options.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.