As the parent of a special needs child you know better than anyone the challenges that come with harboring skillsets to set your child up for as much autonomy as possible. Every child and their needs are different. You’ve been to countless doctor visits, done all the exercises, physical therapy treatments and are wondering for less clinical ways to help your child find a sense of normalcy.
These are some fun activities that while at first may seem far-fetched, will not only harvest repetitive motor skills and act as a sort of physical therapy, but will also give a sense of belonging. However their performance is, showing up and trying will help them gain more and more control of their motor skills each day.
As a parent of several children you probably have to limit TV and video game time for your able bodied children. Most parents think of video games as something fun at best. However, research has shown that in 4 out of 7 home-based studies aimed to promote upper-limb/extremity function they were able to improve the function and mobility playing Nintendo Wii Sport Resort Games. The training lasted for 6 weeks. Kids played for at least 40 minutes a day 5 days a week and had comparable results to children who had resistance training mimicking the same movements as the Wii play. Similar studies have been dine with Xbox 360 VR games. Even traditional controller games from Street Fighter to Final Fantasy help promote finger dexterity.
Some children with CP may have trouble making friends and socializing. Often schedules are filled with school, doctor visits, an array of different therapists and kids can spend more time with adult professionals than with kids their age. This play-therapy can help them regain some of their childhood. Other kids with CP may be extremely social and everybody’s friend. This is another way that you can let them hang out and socialize while they are getting therapy done. Even if unconscious. Either way, it’s a win-win. You don’t get to be the bad-guy for saying they can’t play with friends because they need therapy, they get to play, and you know they’re getting therapy anyways.
Music is a human art form that transcends language, cultures, and time. It has been part of the human experience ranging from religious rites, entertainment, and even therapy. Whether you’re looking for euphoria or relaxation, music can take you there. This is one of the reasons why kids with CP have structural changes in regions of their brains that deal with movement with they are moving to music.
Researchers have said that training musically not only has may attributes that ideal for sensorimotor rehabilitation, but finger and hand coordination as they sync audio, visual and sensory information. According to cerebralpalsynewstoday.com “Another study let 18 children and adolescents, ages 6 to 16, receive individual piano training for 18 months. The study showed that the variability of their keystroke timing was reduced. Furthermore, connections between the patients’ cerebellum and primary motor cortex — the main region of the brain that deals with movement — improved, compared to those who received conventional therapy.” So, buy your kid a keyboard. Let them play and learn at their own rate or enroll them in a local band. You’ll be surprised when after lots of hard work they perform a flute solos at a concert and you realize the therapy and music made an impact.
It may be hard to think of your child doing a high kick and breaking boards when in the back of your mind you worry about them when they try to run or walk. However, that’s part of the beauty of removing limitations and expectations from what your child with CP can and can’t do. The reality is that it can vary person to person and change throughout their lifetime. Let them lead their own pace, interests, and as a parent you can do your job in supporting them. Martial arts teach endurance, patience, strength, self-control, practice, and pushing past your old physical limitations. These are all skills that can help them far beyond the mat.
Your family will filled with joy wearing matching Jiu Jitsu shirts as you attend their local championships or cry remembering when they couldn’t walk straight as you see them get a black belt. Many working adults with CP choose martial arts as a form of non-traditional occupational therapy. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with overcoming the challenges that come with teaching your body new movements and to push past your thresholds. Luckily, your kid has a lifetime of experience over many able-body individuals already doing so.
There are plenty more activities that can have the duality of entertainment, therapy, social network and provide a sense of belonging and accomplishment. These are some of the ways that all of your children can interact and grow closer to each other. When they grow older they won’t look back at this time spent together as helping their sibling with their motor skills or therapy, they’ll just remember the fun memories made along the way.