The brand new and state-of-the-art sensory gym at Uplift Therapy Center will be opening this summer. We will provide occupational therapy and speech therapy services to the pediatric population at our clinic located in La Cañada.
Why a sensory gym?
When parents see a sensory gym, they may think it is a really cool playroom filled with a variety of fun toys. Although it looks exciting and fun, they may still wonder, how will my child benefit from this during therapy and what is the actual purpose of a sensory gym?
Simply put, sensory gyms are play areas that encourage sensory development. They are unique environments designed for children with different abilities to explore and use their various senses in a safe, controlled space. In a sensory gym you may see equipment like slides, cushions, climbing walls, swings, monkey bars, foam pit, etc. The diverse equipment will provide sensory input in a variety of forms, whether it be proprioceptive, vestibular, visual, auditory, or tactile input.
Sensory gyms are multi-sensory environments that offer an area for active play while stimulating the child’s sensory system. Although many children can use a sensory gym, those with sensory challenges and Sensory Processing Disorder will greatly benefit from this type of gym. Autistic individuals tend to have varying levels of sensory processing abilities, so a sensory gym can help with regulation in a non-threatening environment.
Each day our bodies receive a multitude of messages from the outside world through our sensory systems. Each child has a unique sensory processing system, which experiences, processes, and reacts to this information very differently from one another. Some kids are overreactive to sensory input, while others are under reactive to sensory experiences. At times this can impact their occupational performance and engagement in everyday activities. By engaging in therapy in a sensory gym, kids will be able to improve their ability to respond to sensory information while participating in exciting and fun sensory motor activities. They will be provided with opportunities to experience movement where they can jump, run, and crash into pads to gain the sensory input they are seeking but in a safe and controlled space. The gym will help them develop, play, learn, and be as independent as possible in the long run. They will engage in activities that will help improve sensory integration, body awareness, adaptive skills, coordination, social skills, and gross and fine motor skills.
Now, you may wonder, how is this any different from going to the park or playground daily?
An occupational therapist will access and analyze each child and look at their areas of concern alongside their strengths. They will then create interventions to accommodate the needs of each sensory system that is unique to the individual. A therapist can grade each activity to make it more challenging or less challenging, depending on the child’s performance and goals. The interventions, which are play-based, will be enjoyable for the child and will help them learn more about their body. They will have a better sense of self by engaging in and mastering various novel movements/experiences. With all the various items, children can enhance their physical skills, cognitive skills, and sensory integration skills in addition to their health and wellness.