“Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Considerations for Children with Physical Disabilities
It is important for children to explore, experience, and control their environment using their senses. Exploring and controlling a variety of stimulating experiences are key factors to learning and enjoying. Children who are less mobile may be unable to seek out stimulating experiences or to exert control over their surroundings. This article offers some quick ideas for including special sensory experiences within your space so that all children can enjoy using their senses to learn, explore, and control.
Experiencing with the Senses:
- CD or tape player
- Musical Instruments, such as shakers; drums; and bells
- Paper for crumpling
- When possible, make the noise of these items occur when the child does something. For example, if the child presses corresponding button; pulls on a string; moves a body part; looks in the direction of the object; or requests more; the noise should occur. This increases the child’s control in the situation, teaches cause and effect, and reinforces that when a child communicates in some way, the listener will respond.
- Variety of sights, contrasting colors, and interesting shapes and objects
- Easily darkened area – Include a slide projector, flashlights, twinkling Christmas tree/lights, and black light.
- Mobiles with shiny or reflective items
- Bright objects such as aluminum, pot, red teething rings…
- If the child appears to be looking in the direction of an item, try manipulating it at times to show the child that attending to something can help to control the situation or bring satisfaction. That is a good early communication skill.
- Touching and feeling experiences
- Textures of cloth and paper
- Cereals or noodles in a tub
- Finger paints, Shaving cream, Hand lotion, Foam…
- When necessary, use a hand over hand approach to help the child feel the textures. Give words to what you are feeling.
Kinesthetic (moving in space)
- Movement experiences, songs, and activities
- Incline boards
- Large balls
- Water bed mattress
- Swing…When appropriate, help the movement happen. Then stop and wait for the child to indicate he would like it to happen again. He might smile, look at you, wiggle, or even simply wait in anticipation. Again – this helps the child know that he can have control over his environment to make things happen.
Gustatory-olfactory (tasting and smelling)
- Exposure to various tastes and smells
- Salty-non salty
- Smells – scented wax candles, vinegar, coffee beans, cinnamon…
Consult a Professional
Children with physical challenges will likely have a professional, such as an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, involved in their care. It is important to consult with them to ensure that an uniquely designed activity is in the best interest of the child. For instance, children react differently to varying degrees of sensory stimulation. Over or under stimulation of some sort may overwhelm or ‘shut down’ a child.
Another reason to consult the professionals is that they often have access to adaptive equipment, activities, and ideas that can be integrated into the daily routines.
All day every day is a learning adventure.
Song Just for Fun
“I hear with my ears and I smell with my nose. I taste with my tongue, feel with fingers and toes. I see with my two eyes a very nice you. You-hoo, you-hoo, a good day to you.”
I found an article that echoes how relevant it is for us to continue to help our children use their senses, regardless of their age. It reads in part:
“For a child who is nonverbal, the arts become an invaluable tool for expression. Through her research, Fabila (2005) discovered that, “clay, paint, pastels, collage, music, sculpture, dance, wheelchair dancing, theatre and many more art forms carry children with multiple disabilities to another part of themselves with all the emotions of joy, anger, grief, despair, friendship and love. Art can change in some way the negative emotions the children experience. Art making is a way of bringing soul into a new and full life.”-
Marnee Brick, MSc
Speech-Language Pathologist and Director of Speech Therapy
TinyEYE Therapy Services (Speech Therapy Telepractice)