As a baby learns, the baby moves. As a child bumps around, the brain is tracking stress and strain on joints and tendons - and using it to help build an internal "map" of where the body is at all times. When a toddler crawls, the act of moving first one arm, one leg, the other arm, and the other leg helps the brain talk with itself.
As a child learns to tie their shoes, to cut things with a knife and fork, to jump rope, to play catch, a series of incredibly complex internal mechanisms is falling into place.
And if you live in Europe, or if you have a good doctor, that doctor will give your child a full movement exam before Kindergarten starts. Because if your child cannot button a button, zip a zipper, tie their shoes, then it will be extremely hard for your child to learn to read.
All of these things are facts. But for all the average parent knows about them, they could be invisible.
Here's something interesting: lots and lots of children have trouble or a stutter in one or more of the physical stages of development that need to happen before the brain is ready to really succeed in stuff like reading and writing.
And in many cases, nobody ever notices.
The internet is full of self-diagnosis pages that say things like "if your child is awkward, they need proprioceptive stimulation," but what does "awkward" even mean? At seven, it turned out that my kid had proprioceptive problems, and I was shocked. And what's with that name, anyway? Proprioceptive. Wow.
If your child is having trouble with their energy level, their focus, with learning to read or write, or with their handwriting, READ THIS SECTION. And I'll tell you why. Because there's an incredibly high chance that occupational therapy or movement therapy could help your child's brain develop, but the American medical system isn't set up to tell you that, so I will.
Properly administered, occupational therapy activities can calm a hyperactive child, speed up a slow-moving kid, help with myriad sensory issues, and can even keep you young and help after strokes.
Although many normal materials that you have around the house are perfect for OT (for example, an OT told me that you can draw a chalk circle on the wall and have your child squirt it off with a water bottle), here are links to places where you can buy more materials.
TFH has special needs toys. Agape learning center sells a lot of equipment. Pocket full of Therapy also has a lot of great tools to use for sensory stimulation and occupational therapy. Lots of small things. A great range of items for reading and writing. You can buy colored overlays to improve reading here. If you want to buy one thing, however, that will help your child with sensory integration, right-left brain integration, etc. etc., I would suggest that you buy this group of items from Bal a metrics. Barbara Smith is an immensely talented occupational therapist and an amazing person. Check out her website. She is the author of The Recycling Occupational Therapist and has wonderful exercises, fun games, and insight to helping children who need occupational therapy. Remember: OT shouldn't be limited to only an hour a week. It should include a lifestyle change!
This website has several interesting books on OT and play, and on activities for children with visual or other impairments.
General Movement Resources
Eurythmy therapy was developed by Rudolf Steiner in the thirties. It means "harmonious movement."
Brain Gym is educational kinesiology and is used widely. You have to find a Brain Gym-trained practitioner near you. Finally, here is a testimonial from the teacher of an ADHD student who used brain gym and PACE to good effect.
The Best Free Movement Resource I've ever Seen
"The Feldenkrais Method is an unusual melding of motor development, biomechanics, psychology and martial arts. It was developed by Moshé Feldenkrais, D.Sc., who synthesized insights from physics, motor development, bio-mechanics, psychology, and martial arts to develop a powerful, effective, and practical application, demonstrating the inseparableness of thought, feeling, perception and action. Feldenkrais works on the somatic system."
Anat Baniel Method
Another Feldenkrais-based practictioner (in Northern California) is Anat Baniel, who has developed her own method (called the Anat Baniel method). The Anat Baniel method has a good reputation for children, particularly, with developmental disorders.
This page contains videos demonstrating the Anat Baniel method, both for workers who sit at desks, and for children. And here is her quite compelling page of medical opinions about her work.
BodyTalk is a bit esoteric. It calls itself a "state of the art approach to health care." I guess it's best explained by their LA branch, that says: "What do you get when you combine the wisdom of advanced yoga and advaitic philosophy, the insights of modern physics and mathematics, the energy dynamics of acupuncture, the clinical findings of Applied Kinesiology, and western medical expertise? A revolutionary new form of health care called BodyTalk™."
They also have something called Animal Talk, which is therapy for animals.
Sensory Integration Program
Did you know that therapeutic horseback riding is a simply wonderful thing for a child with sensory or autistic issues? Or that therapeutic listening can help the kinesthetic senses?
Therapeutic Horseback Riding
I was just given a referral to Cadence Therapy in Cupertino, California, which provides full OT services. Another resource (but not official OT) is Square Peg in Half Moon Bay. Square Peg is a nonprofit foundation that helps adults and children.
structured handwriting, hand development exercises, bilateral integration exercises, activities to enhance kinesthetic sense. Also, the perceptual enrichment program was suggested.
Hand development exercises
This looks like a nice list of small motor exercises that you can do at home. Tools include egg cartons, tweezers, a melon baller, jar lids, tongs, and so forth. Kind of for Kindergarten-aged kids.
# Hole punches and staplers
# Clay or play dough -- squeeze, flatten with heavy rolling pin, use play-doh® extruding and squishing tools
# Cooking projects, especially with batter or dough
# Construction tools (hammer, saw, etc. at child's developmental level)
# Glue bottles, puffy paint, fabric paint, glitter glue in squeeze bottles
# Clothespins, large tongs
# Stress balls and squeezy fidget toys
# Squeeze toys -- balloon pump, paint sprayer, large squirt gun or spray bottle
# Ziplock bags
# Buttoning, snapping
Bilateral integration exercises
Here's a wonderful overview that describes what bilateral integration is and how it develops. Here are some exercises.
symmetrical bilateral integration exercises
jumping with feet together star jumps (example here) forward rolls clapping hands swinging jumping on the trampoline jumping jacks catching beanbags/tennis balls with both hands angels in the snow reciprocal bilateral integration stage twisting a nut onto a bolt cutting skipping marching climbing a ladder walking on a beam rythmical activities - Pull-apart and push-together building materials (Duplos, zoob tubes, toy accordion, zoom ball)
asymmetrical bilateral integration,
patting head and rubbing stomach with the other doing up buttons tying laces playing ball games dancing (step together, step, hop) eating with knife and form threading beads onto lace cutting out pictures doing up buttons tying laces musical exercises - Shifting weight between two hands, such as when swinging between monkey bars or trapezes, or wheelbarrow walking, crab-walking, bear-walking, doing the "inchworm" (walk hands forward, then hands stay still and feet walk up to hands, repeat), etc. - Anything hand-over-hand to pull a rope (pull something to self, or pull self along a rope while on scooterboard, or climb rope, etc)
Crossing the midline
is the ability to perform a task with one hand in the space on the other side of a body. Keep the body still, cross over.
Positioning-plus-activity to elicit crossing midline. This means: have the child sit backwards on a chair, straddle a bench, or sit on a hippity-hop. Or just tell them that their feet have to stay "glued in place" to the floor while standing. Now have them throw beanbags at targets located far to the sides. Or bat at balloons hung to each side, roll balls in bowling game with pins located to the side, etc. Penny flipping! Line up a row of pennies from left to right so that the row reaches from in front of left shoulder to in front of right shoulder. Cross midline by using one hand to flip them all over in line without leaning to right or left. Try using both hands at once by starting simultaneously at left and right ends of row and flipping pennies until hands meet at the middle. - Make circles and shapes in front of body with streamers
Activities to enhance Kinesthetic Sense
This website has a good description of kinesthetic sense, including this test:
Test your Kinesthetic Awareness
Test your current kinesthetic sense with the few simple exercises below. Evaluate how challenging each task is for you. Keep a slight bend in your knees during all activities.
1. Stand on both feet with proper posture (chest up, shoulders back, ears in line with shoulders) for 10 seconds.
2. Stand on one foot maintaining proper posture for 5 seconds.
3. Stand on both feet maintaining proper posture with your eyes closed for 5 seconds.
4. Stand on one foot maintaining proper posture with your eyes closed for 5 seconds.
If you were able to complete all four tasks with ease, you have pretty good kinesthetic awareness..
Sample Kinesthetic Exercises
� Basic: Stand on a balance board with two feet! Keep your knees slightly bent and try to balance as long as possible. As this becomes easier, increase the challenge of the board.
� Intermediate: Squats on the balance board. Once you feel stable just standing on the board, try performing squats. Keeping the knees in line with the toes, sit back and perform a squat. See how many you can perform in a row.
� Advanced: With a fitness professional or partner, perform chest passes with a med ball back and forth while standing on the balance board. This forces you to focus on the med ball toss and increases the challenge of the balance board.
The new Wii balance board (AKA: Wii Fit) has been recommended by a local OT for kinesthetic and also proprioceptive processing. She tells me that she has a PhD candidate coming to her office this coming year who is doing a study about how effective the wii board is!
Perceptual Enrichment Program
The tactile or touch (skin) sensory system has many important functions, including providing us with the ability to know what an object is without looking (tactile discrimination) and identifying temperature and pain. Tactile sensation also plays a crucial role in the development of fine motor abilities and overall body awareness. (Description from Rosemary White)
Wilbarger Brushing Protocol AKA Deep Pressure Proprioceptive Technique
The Wilbarger brushing protocol is described very well in this newsletter. Here's the brushing protocol that they use for tactile and proprioceptive processing. I love the notation on the website that says that if you aren't properly trained you can cause harm or, conversely, do no good at all. Ha. Sounds like some therapists I know.
Here are some general physical therapy exercises for proprioceptive training. Take a look at these exercises. They seem kind of fun, you can easily do them with your child (heck, everybody can stand on one foot and can swing their feet around. Note: I have no idea if this helps proprioceptive processing, but hey.
[Ed. Note: The following sections are reminders for me. If I can find more information on how to exercise these things at home, I'll put them in.]
Underdeveloped Kinesthetic Sense
Underdeveloped Distal Precision Handling Skills
Precision handling is the placement of an object between fingers or finger and thumb. picking up a raisin with thumb and index finger is an example of precision handling. Another way to exercise this is to give your child a pair of tweezers and let them move something small from one bowl to another.
Weaknesses in upper limb coordination
Here's a paper about developing upper limb proprioceptive accuracy in children and adolescents.
Weakness in fine motor precision
Problems with Dexterity
Problems with graphomotor skills