A 5-year-old son has been religiously attending occupational and speech therapy and SPED intervention for the past four years. Is there anything one can make him do to add some flavour and fund to his routine?
Each child with special needs can participate in any activities like most other children. Nowadays, there are so many to choose from. Parents know what is best suited for their child. Younger children may show some predisposition to certain talents. Older children may even specifically ask for the activity they would like to get involved with or appeals to them the most. Whatever program you choose, keep in mind that it’s a time for fun and relaxation. It is all about balance. There is no need to keep your child’s schedule tight or full the whole day. Plan ahead. Limit activities to those with little sensory stimulation. Find places that are not too crowded nor too noisy.
Getting physical, getting fit – Children should learn skills in several steps or over several days. A child who is not competitive or who has difficulty following team rules can start off with individual sports like swimming, hiking, or biking. Team sports are often preferred by children with good coordination and strong social interaction skills. Avoid sports that need a lot of equipment or involve a lot of sensory stimulation. Encouraging physical activity will set up a lifetime pattern. This means it will be more likely that the child will also exercise or be involved in sports as an adult.
Taekwondo: An excellent individual sport for physical training. Students learn about respect for the instructor, discipline, self-control, and mental stamina. Self-defense is taught and becomes an important lesson. It encourages perseverance and confidence.
Aqua therapy: Involves using water for specific activities that have physical, sensory, and recreational benefits. Only qualified personnel can conduct aquatic therapy. Health-wise, children become stronger and learn coordination, concentration or balance. Children with behaviour problems learn to calm down and show less aggression. Appropriate behaviours are learned.
Art therapy: Art classes, and painting are valuable tools in learning self-expression. This is particularly important for children who are non-verbal. Aside from developing creativity or abstract thinking, eye-hand coordination can be improved. Children can also strengthen their focusing skills and increase their attention spans. Some effective examples include finger painting, brush painting, and clay scrulpture.
Performing Arts (Kindermusik, Dance, Theater): Many children with autism benefit from music. If they are non-verbal, they can make sounds or play musical instruments. This helps stimulate their senses and can also be educational. Mimicking sounds can improve their social interaction skills. Music can be experienced in different ways (humming, singing, learning lyrics, playing instruments, etc.) and can help them communicate or express emotions better.
Special Programs; The Tomatis Listening Method: The principle behind this program is that “good learners are good listeners” and that the “voice can only reproduce what the ear hears”. This is a good program for those with learning disabilities. The website describes it as an “auditory stimulation program based on the interrelationship between the ear and the voice, between listening and communication”. After an initial assessment, an individualized program is spread out over 3 phases. Through this method, the listening system is re-trained with the use of a highly developed “Electronic Ear”. The goal is to maximize the potential for communication by restoring a person’s full capacity as a listener.
Take a Trip/ Go on an Outing: Have a real vacation. Children love to spend time with you and their siblings. It need not be expensive. Go to the beach or up a mountain. Plan a nature walk or day trip to the park, visit a museum or library, or explore the zoo. Give your child this time with you—to explore new places and to tr out new things, because exposure to new and different things is the only way learning can happen.
“Remember to a child, LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E.”