Autism swings are not only fun, but versatile as well. They can be used indoors as well as outdoors. Depending on your child’s needs, autism swings can be used as both an alerting and calming tool. This versatility makes these swings a great sensory integration tool for children with autism.
In school, we are taught about the 5 senses and how they affect our perception of the world around us. We learned that without sight, smell, touch, taste, our bodies do not know how to react to our environment. These senses provide vital information which helps keep us safe and healthy.
But what we didn’t learn in school is that the body actually has more than 5 senses.
The vestibular system is the sense of movement. It lets us know if we’re moving, how fast we’re moving, and in which direction we’re headed.
This system is the most influential of all the senses as it affects almost everything we do. Children with a developed vestibular system move with control and confidence. They can run, jump, climb, and bounce because their brain knows exactly where the body is in relation to other objects.
However, children with autism don’t move as confidently. Their body doesn’t know its exact location in space. Because the brain has a hard time organizing sensory information, it is not receiving the correct information from the senses. This makes their brain and body feel unsafe, and survival mode kicks in.
Autism swings create a safe space for your child to receive vestibular input.
As your child swings, fluid in their ear canal activates sensors in the middle and inner ear.
Their body then combines this sense of movement with information from the eyes and ears. With time, your child begins to gain confidence that their body is safe— even when their feet are off the ground.
The proprioceptive system informs our body of its position in space by directing muscles on how to react to external stimuli. Like the other senses, proprioception is essential for building body awareness and a sense of security.
An underdeveloped proprioceptive system requires tremendous concentration to react to a surrounding environment. The brain is unable to transform vision stimuli to proper physical reactions. To be more specific, the brain is unable to identify where specific body parts are in relation to one another.
Autism swings provide proprioceptive input though the application of Deep Pressure Therapy.
As your child sits in their sensory swing, the fabric compresses their sensory receptors. Your child can actually feel their arms, feet, and legs pressed against the fabric. As they move their body, their brain understands exactly where each limb is located in relation to the rest of their body.
From increasing attention span, to improving coordination, the benefits of sensory swings are endless. Let’s take a look at why children with autism love their sensory swings!
When children have trouble processing vestibular input, their body doesn’t know how to move within their environment. When they go to jump, they can’t judge how far their jump needs to be. If they want to do a somersault, they don’t know that they will land on the ground. Even zipping up their jacket or writing can be difficult.
As your child sits in their sensory swing, they gain confidence that their body is safe— even when their feet are off the ground. The stronger these associations become, the more their balance improves.
Another major benefit of autism swings is its ability to boost your child’s mood. Deep Pressure Therapy also has a positive effect on the hormone levels. Researchers found that Deep Pressure Therapy actually increases “happy” serotonin levels by 28% percent. They also found that the stress hormone, cortisol, decreased by 31%.
Children with autism have a hard time filtering and organizing sensory input. This overflow of information puts stress on the nervous system, causing sensory meltdowns. Sensory input, like cuddling and swinging, calms the body’s “fight or flight” response. Autism swings make your child feel safe, soothing their overly stimulated senses.
Swing therapy also benefits muscle tone as different swinging positions can be used to target different muscle groups. To strengthen their head and neck muscles, have your child swing on their stomach. If your child suffers from weak core muscles, try rolling up the fabric like a normal swing. The lack of back support will strengthen abdominal muscles and improve posture.
The swinging motion and Deep Pressure Therapy have an organizing effect on the brain. This gives your child some much needed relief from an overwhelmed nervous system. Sensory swings make children with autism feel more “in balance.” Because of this, many parents find that swinging before or during homework increases concentration.
To learn more about autism swings, check out 8 Benefits of A Sensory Swing.
If you feel that your child will benefit from a sensory swing, it is important that you talk with your child’s pediatrician and OT. Remember that your child’s needs may change from day to day, and they should never be forced to participate in sensory activities.
We’d love to hear what your child thinks about their autism swing. Let us know in the comments below!-
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