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Ilana Danneman
BY Ilana Danneman
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Up, Up, and Away!: 7 Ways Using a Swing Benefits Your Child with Special Needs

I love a swing! Some of my fondest memories as a child are of running for the swing set at recess. When my son was eighteen months old, we bought him an outdoor swing; by the time he was three , we had an indoor one as well. We still have that swing up. It hangs in our kitchen doorway suspended from a support bar, and for the past 24 years a multitude of children and adults have found a seat there while I worked in the kitchen.

It is not difficult to suspend a swing or have access to one, but be sure yours is suspended properly and checked regularly. Using a professional installer and checking your suspension and attachments regularly will ensure that your swing is always safe and secure. You may enjoy having a ceiling suspension to hang a variety of swings, an indoor frame, or a support bar. You can choose from either single point (swivel swings) or dual point swings to enjoy.

A swing can be calming or alerting. It can create a space and time for socializing or provide a great workout. Let’s take a look at some benefits of swinging.

1. Coordination and Motor Planning

Between the ages of two and four, most children learn to pump while swinging. This involves quite a bit of heavy work, abdominal and trunk control, and timing. A tire swing can be fun for one, two, or even three children at once, and will require cooperation, balance, and motor planning as well. I prefer hard swings like a platform or wood swing, as they provide a solid base and prevent sagging or poor posture when swinging.

2. Body Awareness

Our Golgi tendon organs are deep receptors located within our joints that respond to muscle pull, notifying us where our joints are in space. A swing made of stretchy fabric can really help wake up those joint receptors and create that proprioceptive awareness. But even just pumping on a plain old strap swing can stimulate those receptors

3. Rock-a-Bye Baby

Hammock swings are perfect for relaxing and de-stressing. For individuals with anxiety, OCD, sensory integration disorder, or autism, a hammock is like medicine. You can suspend a hammock in a bedroom, on a standing frame in a den or living room, or even outdoors. Cuddle up with a book or take a nap.

4. Focus and Attention

Swinging can be alerting and, due to an increase in blood flow to the brain, create a better environment for focus and attention. When you notice yourself or someone else checking out, it’s time to hit the swings for a quick pick-me-up. Swinging for just a few minutes can raise endorphins and wake up a sleepy brain and body.

5. Core Control and Upper Body Workout

As mentioned, a swing is great for learning to pump, but it can also provide an overall great workout for the legs, arms, and core. The longer the rope, the more work swinging takes. Try sitting, then kneeling, and then standing on a platform swing for a real challenge and some heavy work.

6. Sensory Integration

A keen sensory awareness is not a given for everyone. Aside from the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel, a swing can stimulate the sense of motion and vestibular awareness. The ability to understand the world from different planes of motion is important, as we are not always upright, and swinging can help us understand our world and our space from a different perspective.

7. Mood Booster

Swinging can raise endorphin levels and get your mood up! Just a few minutes of playing or rocking on a swing can change a mood, and it’s not likely you’ll see a grumpy person get off the swing they got onto,

Ilana Danneman

Written on April 14, 2017 by:

Ilana Danneman is a product developer for Fun And Function. She has worked with therapists, teachers and parents of special needs children for 20 years and has been a physical therapist herself since 1986 with experience in acute care, spinal cord injury (Shepherd Center), outpatient rehab and pediatrics. Ilana has a passion for writing and teaching kids (and adults) how to move! She can be reached at [email protected]
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