2 Ways Swings Help Children With Sensory Integration

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The first thing we wanted to do in our new backyard was get our little man a swing. Our trees aren’t quite big enough so we are using our pergola over our back patio. Noah loves the swing. We use a very large one at our therapy sessions, and Noah has seen his fair share of swings in other people’s backyards. We have been waiting patiently to have a swing of our very own and today is the day.

My favorite part of swinging is Noah’s laugh. He does it every time he gets in the swing, and I can’t get enough of it. He just giggles away like he is having the best time ever. The laugh also encourages us to keep pushing to continue the fun. He has trained us well.

Think swings are just for fun? Think again.

We didn’t buy this swing for any other purpose but for Noah (and us) to have fun. However there are some great side benefits to swinging, not only for children with Down syndrome, but for all kids.

We will often start our occupational therapy sessions with swinging as it helps wake up Noah’s muscles and get him to activate his core. The movement forces him to engage his core to keep him sitting up. It helps him be aware of his body and the different movements he needs to make to maintain his balance.

Sensory Integration And Swinging

Swinging helps with sensory integration. Two sensing systems we have (and no I am not just talking about taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight) are our vestibular system and proprioception. All of our systems intertwine so we can move with ease and experience our environment. These two senses are vital to be able to do this.

1. Vestibular System

Our vestibular system is in our inner ear and helps us know if we are moving and which direction we are going. It is essential to balance. It is the reason we get motion sickness or feel like the room is spinning if you are every diagnosed with vertigo.   We actually have three loops in our inner ear and the direction of the fluid inside tells our brain how we are moving. God’s design always blows me away. If you apply this to swinging, you are moving in multiple directions and having to balance on the seat, all integrating our vestibular system to figure out what in the world is going on.

2. Proprioception

Proprioception is our sense of knowing our body and where our different parts are located in relation to each other and how they are moving. It can be described as body awareness. There are constant messages being sent from our peripheral body (through proprioceptors and nerves) to our brain and ears telling them where these parts are located and what they are doing. Again apply this to swinging, and the body has to figure out where you are in space and how to control a moving object.

Movement involves so many different messages from our body and swinging is just one tool used to help our little guys figure out how to interpret those messages and use their bodies to the best of their ability.

Have you discovered any “hidden” benefits of using your child’s favorite toys or activities.

 

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Comments

  1. Love reading your blog! I AMA teacher of special needs students at the high school level. I am teaching two students with Downs Syndrome, a male and a female. K is 19, and very quiet. She knows all her states and capitals, can read really well, but struggles with comprehension. Verbally, she is pretty easy to understand, but isn't very proactive with speaking freely, nor using long sentences. D is 17, very outgoing, difficult to understand, but has wonderful gross motor. I think parenting played a big part in the development of these two students. Wonder what I would have done differently, if these students had been my own children. Like you, I would have treated them like nothing was different. I have wonderful students, and I'm a tough teacher, always striving to get my students to be independent thinkers and doers. Wish I could get all my parents on board with the same thinking….

  2. Rick Smith says:

    I'm interested to hear how many other children are using a swing in their OT / PT development.

  3. Wonderful post about sensory integration! I am a middle school teacher for medically fragile students, and I am thankful that our school is equipped with indoor and outdoor swings-hammock swings, wheelchair swings, and etc. I will have to get my kids swinging tomorrow. Noah is adorable, thanks for sharing!

    • Rick Smith says:

      Thanks for the kind words! Middle school teachers are awesome by the way! I do a lot of work w/ middle school students. Your classroom sounds awesome. Do you teach in public school system?

  4. Bellawings222 says:

    We did a lot of swinging and rocking when Eric was an infant and toddler and I truly believe it is a huge reason as to why he is so verbal.   Eric’s speech therapist educated me on the importance of rocking an infant and how that stimulates the inner ear and how that contributes to speech and language development as you explained so well!  My son is now 25 and I LOVE your site and pics.  Brings back so many wonderful memories of when Eric was a baby!  Looking back I did so much for him at such a young age as a mom!  I was a whole 20 years old.  Keep up the great work! 

  5. cara-creating awareness says:

    Fantastic post.  It makes me want to install a swing in my doorway because it is so cold outside here.  I remember my first 2 girls laughing so much in the swing!!!

  6. Raylene Logan says:

    I never knew about the swing. I can’t wait to try it once the weather gets a little (I mean alot) warmer here in Michigan! My daughter, Kara-16 months, loves a mirror. I have a full-length one in my room, and I can set her in front of it, and it will keep her entertained forever. She talks to herself, waves at herself, raises both hands over her head and twists back and forth. Her interaction with that baby she sees in the mirror is wonderful. I love to sit and watch her.

    • Oh….yah mirrors are awesome! Noah really likes looking in a mirror also. And…he is also starting to wave! It’s so much fun watching him take each little step.

      Do you guys have any other children?

  7. Melanie Postich Ward says:

    I loved hearing Noah's little giggles too! This was such a great post! I really wish it wasn't so cold and snow covered out side! We have a whole Little Tikes village in our back yard! I went a little crazy last summer. I knew it would all benefit Sydney for therapy reasons! Syd giggles just like this in her swing! Pushing my babies in their swings is one of my favorite things to do on a nice day!

    • Rick Smith says:

      I know, his giggles are awesome. I love hearing them also.

      One of the great things about Texas is if the weather is cold one day, it will probably be warm the next…

      The Little Tikes Village sounds awesome! We're a bit behind on our videos, but I think in a few weeks I'll be getting to the point were Noah's grandpa comes over and installs a bigger play set for Noah. He really likes it. :)

    • Melanie Postich Ward says:

      Rick Smith Maybe I should tell my hubby we need to move to Texas! I do not like the cold weather at all.
      I liked the date on this video..it was the day after my birthday! It's okay you're a little behind…we all just love seeing Noah! I can't wait to see his new playset! After seeing this post, I think my hubby needs to build a swingset for this summer. Right now we only have the two infant swings. Tommy needs a big boy swing, plus I don't want to worry about Syd not having one! :-) I have a picture somewhere in my mobile uploads from this past summer of the Little Tikes Village! It is pretty awesome

    • Melanie Postich Ward I can't wait to see a picture of it! :) By the way, one thing you should know about Texas….the summers are HOT! :) This summer we several days in a row that are over 110! Can you believe that…..!

    • Melanie Postich Ward I can't wait to see a picture of it! :) By the way, one thing you should know about Texas….the summers are HOT! :) This summer we several days in a row that are over 110! Can you believe that…..!

    • Christina K Cruz says:

      NoahsDad.com That is why I say we have Bipoler weather one day hot next day cold are rainy {Like yestrday and sunday night would not suprise me one bit if it became sunny today all the sudden. lol

    • Melanie Postich Ward says:

      NoahsDad.com OKay yeah I don't know if I would like that either!! haha!! We had some really hot days but its not the norm here in PA! I just am ready for this cold weather to over! We have all been sick and stuck in the house for over a month! I am just ready for a nice day! :-)

    • Christina K Cruz Ha,ha..I know just what you mean! :)

    • Melanie Postich Ward I want to see some snow man pictures before the sun comes out though…! :)

    • Melanie Postich Ward says:

      NoahsDad.com Haha guess that means I must go outside now!! LOL!! :-) When Tommy comes home for school I will have them build a snowman for their buddy Noah!! :-)

    • Melanie Postich Ward awwwww that would be awesome! :)

  8. Love this, my daughter is senory intergration too.

  9. Thanks Rick, they are great kids! Yes, public school in Michigan.

    • That's awesome. I really enjoy hearing about public schools that are doing great things like what you describe! Keep up the great work. By the way, how did you come across our blog? I'm glad you did! :)

    • That's awesome. I really enjoy hearing about public schools that are doing great things like what you describe! Keep up the great work. By the way, how did you come across our blog? I'm glad you did! :)

  10. My son has always liked some sort of sensory integration- from him spinning in circles when he was younger to scary ,fast fairground rides as he has got older. I remember his occupational therapist saying he craved it and still does. When he was small he used to like being wrapped up like a big tight squeeze in a gym-mat- think he enjoyed the secure, tight feeling. He has told me it makes his tummy tickle and 1 of the rare times I hear him laugh and genuinely giggle. (he is 14 with high-functioning autism/ADHD)

  11. Christine Johnson Harker says:

    Dear Noah: You have Mommy and Daddy right where you want them! You will go far in life, Young Jedi, the force is strong in you! You have the most infectious giggle EVER! Thanks for getting me going, I think I may have woken my son with my laughing.

    On another note, it is always a good day when I learn a new word, and you did that today with "proprioceptive"! Would the fact that I am a lifelong klutz be best described as having horrible proprioceptors, LOL?

    • Ha,ha..thanks! I also learn new words every day as well. I had never heard of propriceptive until Noah was born…in fact I had never heard of a lot of stuff before Noah was born. :)

  12. KylieandNathan Paskett says:

    Gorgeous video Rick..love the giggle! We don’t have a swing for Felix (16 months) yet, but we got him a baby sized playground (with steps and a slide) for Christmas, and within 2 weeks he was climbing the stairs by himself. We were shocked to see him sitting on the top after leaving the room for 2 minutes! Now, a month or so later, he pulls himself to stand up the top. He loves the slide too and giggles as he goes down on his belly, feet first :)

  13. Rick I believe a co worker showed me your blog, so there may be a lot of educators enjoying Noah's page ;)

  14. I like how you example the swing.. there are play toy that really a big help for child development.
    I guess swing is highly recommend in the same cases.

  15. What a beautiful voice, it actually reminds me of James! I can't wait to get one for James. My 8 year old and I spent hours in the swing and singing. It was the only thing that kept him happy his first summer!

  16. Love it! Happy Valentine's Day!

  17. My little three year old sister saw this and she said she “could watch this for hours.” 
    He’s such a sweetie!

  18. I am a pediatric OT so reading this makes my heart smile! Noah is such a precious boy.

  19. Anna Theurer says:

    We use the swing with Ellie twice a day almost every day.  We have one in our backyard and we frequent the local parks.  Additionally, the swing is used in OT and ST.  Other sensory integration activities that we implement regularly are bouncing on the ball (I have seen sweet little Noah rock this!) and heavy work.  Heavy work will be great once Noah is walking.  It is essentially encouraging your child to push heavy objects.  It can be as easy as placing soup cans in a child’s push-pull-toy (we like the little tikes grocery cart).  Ellie loves pushing around her baby stroller and I made a weighted sock to put in it.  The weighted sock (10% of body weight using dried beans or rice) can also be draped across her lap when sitting in a shopping cart/high chair. . . I have more information here: http://ellietheurer.blogspot.com/p/sensory-processing-disorder.html

    • That sounds awesome, thanks for sharing your link by the way! Noah’s dad probably needs to do some heavy work as well…! :)

      And yes….Noah does A LOT of exercise ball. :)

  20. Jeff Rittman says:

    Thanks for writing this. I have been seeing swings at PT but we never use them. My baby is only 4 months. I saw some platform swings on line. I made one modeled after those tonight. I added a 6 inch lip around it so he can lay on it and not roll off. I used my wife's yoga mat as a pad. I also made sure it was large enough to fit his car seat. The paint is drying on it now but later this week I will mount it in the house. Thanks so much for the idea.

  21. Another awesome post. Our oldest has some sensory integration issues and our youngest with Ds has displayed a few as well. I knew that he loved to swing, but now we will have another excuse to do so when the weather warms up. Too much snow in NE to play outside.

  22. Lizbeth Mendez-Sanchez says:

    Hi. I love, love to read your blog. It was one of those first things that I found on the internet and make me feel that everything was going to be ok. I'm from Juarez, Mexico, but after my son Mateo Elias was born in El Paso TX and diagnosed with Down Syndrome, I just knew I have to live in the United States and build (along with my older daugther and my husband) the strength, hope, dignity and unconditional love that requires a family with a special needs member. It hasn't been easy because we are not perfect parents, but we´re taking it day by day and always praising god for everything and taking His hand for every step no matter how scary it can look. God bless your beautiful family y muchas gracias por compartir sus vidas :-)

  23. I love this video! My brother loves swinging too! He still does and he is 23 now! He would swing 24/7 if he could! lol!  : ) 

  24. Scott and Vanessa says:

    Wow – I have been dying to get Enzo on one of the park swings in our neighborhood.  I am going to have to try it tonight.  This will be so much fun.  I am just so concerned that he is so little and might slide off or something, but I’ll make sure it works.  

    Noah’s laugh is just too cute and contagious.  Love hearing his laugh too!  Thanks for sharing.  

  25. Scott and Vanessa says:

    I love the swing.  We can’t wait to get Enzo on a swing.  Noah looks so stinking cute on the swing.  

  26. Thank you both for sharing your love for Noah.  You are educating us all on how to be encouraging all children develop.  Thank you all so for sharing your faith and walk in being the parent of your darling child, Noah.

  27. Do these principles apply to indoor swings that the kid is strapped into and it swings on its own (with the help of batteries).

  28. he is so cute and happy in that swing. my nine month old also loves the swing. and his hair sticks up just like noah’s hair! so adorable!

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