From dance therapy to playground games, movement has been shown to be a powerful force when it comes to helping children with challenges related to ADHD, learning disabilities, processing disorders, Aspergers syndrome (ASD), and a host of other related childhood learning and developmental issues. By enlisting the body in aiding the whole self, kids and parents can overcome many of their daily struggles. Here are some ways to encourage your kids to move around more.
Dancing is a great movement option that can engage a child who is on the autism spectrum. The art of dance has long been a way to express the self without words. For a child with Aspergers Syndrome (ASD) or who is on the autism spectrum, it can be a perfect outlet to express emotions that otherwise may not be visible. It can also connect the mind and body in a way that those with ASD struggle to achieve. The repetitive and choreographed movements improve gross motor skills and memory, and are approachable for those who like a routine.
Aside from the benefits it offers children, dance therapy can also be useful for those who have anxiety, behavioral issues or even ADHD. The calming power of musical movement can improve focus and social harmony, both internally and externally. In a small study, boys with ADHD who took a dance session were better able to do their schoolwork and got into fewer altercations with their peers. Dance is certainly a force to be reckoned with!
Movement Through Play
When the weather is nice, it's a great idea to spend long afternoons at the playground. Interventions in the playground have been used to aid children who have emotional difficulties. A child with social anxiety or sensory-processing issues can benefit from getting active at a sensory playground, or they can be encouraged to jump, climb, spin and swing in a safe environment.
Increasing physical movement, whether through a game of tag or kickball, has also been shown to alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD. Just like allowing a child with ADHD to fidget, providing a means of regular physical activity (such as unstructured play at the playground) can be a great way to help them succeed. Spending time in nature has also been shown to increase focus in the classroom, so be sure to play outside regularly whenever you're able.
Indoor Occupational Therapy
You don't need to be an OT professional to incorporate aspects of occupational therapy into your daily interactions with your child. On a rainy day, you could try some indoor movement activities. One popular option for kids with sensory processing issues is to do some gentle yoga. Many of the poses involve balance (great for the vestibular system), muscle engagement for a sense of control, or calming elements that will provide a sense of safety.
Another gentle, indoor therapy option would be to bounce on an exercise ball, which can benefit children with a range of emotional needs, from ADHD to ASD. Or try a simple game of "Simon Says," where you encourage your child to connect the two sides of their brain by touching a foot with the opposite hand while hopping up and down.
There are many ways to use the benefits of movement to treat a multitude of emotional and behavioral issues in your child. Whether you head to the playground, roll out your yoga mat in the living room, or spend some time dancing like no one is watching, a little movement can certainly help your child succeed.