Occupational therapy activities for children with disabilities such as neurodiversity, multiple disabilities, visual impairment, and more.
Children with multiple disabilities often face challenges in experiencing the world around them due to a combination of physical, cognitive, and sensory impairments.
Children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment often require special attention and care to help them develop their skills and reach their full potential.
Occupational therapy is one such effective way to help these children learn and grow through fun and engaging activities.
Today’s blog post is all about various occupational therapy activities that can be easily done at home using simple household items. These activities are especially beneficial for parents who have children with disabilities such as neurodiversity, multiple disabilities, visual impairment, and more.
Occupational therapy activities can help children with disabilities develop important skills, such as fine motor skills, sensory processing skills, and visual motor skills. These activities can also help children with disabilities learn how to regulate their emotions, improve their self-esteem, and develop social skills.
It is important to note that before carrying out any occupational therapy activities at home, it is essential to get a proper assessment done by a licensed occupational therapist. A proper assessment can help identify the sensory issues that your child may have and the specific activities that would be most beneficial for them.
Once you have identified the appropriate activities, you can easily carry them out at home using simple household items mentioned in my blog.
It is important to remember that while carrying out occupational therapy activities at home, you should always consult your therapist and follow all precautions to ensure your child’s safety. Negligence can lead to injury, and it is essential to take all necessary steps to ensure that your child is safe while carrying out these activities.
In this blog, I will discuss some of the best home based occupational therapy activities for children with disabilities, more specifically multiple disabilities and visual impairment which can easily be performed at home.
1. Sensory activities:
Children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities often rely on their other senses to explore the world around them. Sensory and tactile awareness activities can help these children develop a better understanding of their environment and enhance their overall sensory and motor skills. Here I will discuss some of the best sensory and tactile awareness activities that can benefit children with multiple disabilities. Different sensory activities such as playing with different textures, scents, smells and sounds can help these children develop their sense of touch, smell, and hearing.
Tactile activities can help children with visual impairment improve their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
A. Sensory bins or bags: – Sensory bins are a great way to introduce children to different textures, colors, and materials. Parents can create sensory bins by filling a shallow container with different items such as rice, dal, pistachio shells, sand, water beads, beans or pasta. Add scoops, spoons, and other tools to the bin to encourage children to explore and play.
B. A sensory file/wall/path/board: – Either of a sensory file, sensory board, sensory wall or sensory path can be made having different textured materials depending upon the availability of material and space. For example – a soft feather, leaf, muslin, silk, woollen cloth pieces, scrotch pad, wooden scraps, etc on each page to develop the tactilte sense. You can also create a tactile board/wall or a path by gluing different textures such as velvet, sandpaper, and fur onto a board/wall or path for the children to explore.
C. A sensory play time (Water play)– Water play is an excellent activity for children with multiple disabilities. Fill a basin with water, add floating toys, and let children splash and play in the water. You can also add different textures to the water, such as ice cubes, bubbles, or foam. Sensory play time with sand or grains, atta , rice or materials which can easily be available in home can be used for these activities can also be incorporated during the daytime.
D. Playdough: Playdough is a versatile material that can be used to create different shapes, textures, and colors. Children can squish, squeeze, and mold the playdough, which can improve their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Activities such as molding clay, playing with playdough, or drawing with raised-line paper and textured crayons can be also be effective.
E. Sensory Walk: A sensory walk is a fun and engaging activity that can help children with multiple disabilities to explore different textures and surfaces. Create a sensory path using materials such as grass, sandpaper, bubble wrap, and foam. Encourage children to walk barefoot or with socks to experience the different textures.
F. Sensory Bottles: Sensory bottles are a simple yet effective way to engage children in sensory exploration. Fill a plastic bottle with different materials such as glitter, beads, or rice, and add water or oil to create a mesmerizing effect. Children can shake the bottle and observe the materials moving inside.
G. Tactile Games: Tactile games such as “What’s in the box?” or “Touch and Feel” can help children with multiple disabilities develop their tactile sense. Put different objects in a box, and ask children to guess the object by feeling it with their hands. You can also create a touch and feel book with different textures such as sandpaper, fur, or sponge.
Sensory bins or bottles can be prepared for the children to develop their olfactory sense. Parents can add different scents in a bottle. Items csn easily be found from kitchen, and toiletries. Let the children explore the small toys household items.
1.iii. Auditory activities
Parents can also make homemade musical instruments using different materials and encourage the children to play along with music. Musical instruments easily available online can be used for this purpose. Household items like utensils, coins in a box etc can be used for auditory activities. Use of smart devices like echodot Alexa, and other smart gadgets can be utilized as various sounds of animals, birds, vehicles, musical instruments and more can be found and heard on these smart devices.
1.iv. Music, Dance and Movement: Music, dance and movement activities can help children with multiple disabilities develop their sensory and motor skills. Play different types of music, and encourage children to dance, clap, or move their bodies in response to the music. You can also use instruments such as drums, shakers, or bells to create a sensory experience.
Multiple disabilities can pose unique challenges for children when it comes to participating in gross and fine motor activities. However, with the right strategies and support, children with multiple disabilities can engage in a variety of motor activities that promote physical development and enhance their overall quality of life.
2. Gross motor activities:
Gross motor activities involve large muscle groups and typically require movement of the entire body. These types of activities help children build strength, balance, coordination, and endurance. Gross motor activities such as playing catch, jumping, or crawling can help children with multiple disabilities develop their gross motor skills. Here are some examples of gross motor activities that can be adapted for children with multiple disabilities:
A. Wheelchair basketball: This is a fun and engaging sport that can be modified to accommodate different skill levels and abilities. Children can practice dribbling and passing the ball while seated in their wheelchair.
B. Balloon volleyball: Children can practice hitting and catching a balloon using their hands or other body parts while sitting or standing.
C. Yoga: Yoga poses can be adapted to suit the individual needs of children with multiple disabilities. These poses can help promote flexibility, strength, and relaxation.
D. Dance: Children can engage in dance movements that suit their abilities and interests. This can be done individually or in a group setting.
E.Horizontal hurdle activities: You can set up horizontal hurdle activities or obstacle courses using soft play mats, stools, chairs, old big boxes and trunks, old wooden ladder (seedhi) or cushions for the children to crawl, climb or jump over.
F. Vertical hurdle activities: You can set up vertical hurdle activities on Kitchen slabs/platforms, stools, window panes etc.
–>You can put their favorite blocks, stack toys, shape sorters, wooden peg puzzle pieces, household items(e.g. 10 fruits, vegetables, or utensils) to let them finish for 10 counts.
–>Child can also play games such as “finger family”, “red light says stop, green light says go” or “Simon says” or any oral game. This is to encourage the children to move around and follow instructions in a play- way method
3. Fine motor activities:
Fine motor activities involve the use of small muscle groups, such as those in the hands and fingers. These types of activities help children develop hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and overall motor control. Here are some examples of fine motor activities that can be adapted for children with multiple disabilities:
A. Finger painting: Children can create artwork using their fingers, hands, or other body parts. This helps promote creativity and fine motor skills.
B. Beading: Children can practice stringing beads onto a string or wire to make bracelets, necklaces, or other jewelry. You can also create a stringing activity by stringing beads onto a shoelace or pipe cleaner for the children to practice their fine motor skills. This helps promote hand-eye coordination and dexterity.
C. Playdough: Children can mold and shape playdough into different objects, which promotes creativity and fine motor skills.
D. Sensory bins: Sensory bins filled with different textures, colors, and objects can help promote exploration, tactile awareness, and fine motor skills.
E. Tongs or tweezers activity: using tongs or tweezers to pick up objects/paper pieces, beads etc from one container to another.
F. Puzzle games and activities: Doing puzzles can help children with multiple disabilities improve their coordination and fine motor skills. Parents can create simple puzzles using large wooden blocks or foam pieces with different textures and shapes for the children to put together.
G. Cutting, tearing and pasting: Cutting with scissors or knife under adult supervision can also be done. Tearing and pasting of colorful papers and pictures are a fun passtime along with a perfect fine motor activity for your child.
When adapting motor activities for children with multiple disabilities, it is important to consider the individual needs of each child. Some children may require additional support, such as adaptive equipment or modifications to the activity. Others may require specific types of instruction or sensory input. By taking the time to understand each child’s unique needs, you can help them engage in motor activities that promote physical development and enhance their overall quality of life.
Children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment also often struggle with their balance, coordination, and spatial awareness.
Vestibular and proprioceptive activities
can help these children improve their sensory processing and body awareness, which can have a positive impact on their overall development.
Let’s discuss some vestibular and proprioception occupational therapy activities for children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment.
Vestibular Activities :
1. Swinging: Swinging is an excellent vestibular activity that can help children improve their balance and spatial awareness. You can set up a swing in the therapy room or in the backyard or in the park and encourage the child to swing back and forth. You can also do conversation, ask general knowledge questions, do counting, sing rhymes, play games such as “red light says stop, green light says go” or “Simon says” while the children are swinging.
2. Rolling: Rolling is another effective vestibular activity that can help children improve their sense of balance and coordination. You can place a soft mat on the floor, and encourage the children to roll back and forth. You can also play games such as “rolling races” to make the activity more fun and engaging.
3. Rocking: Rocking is a simple but effective vestibular activity that can help children improve their balance and body awareness. You can use a rocking chair or a large therapy ball, and encourage the children to rock back and forth while sitting or lying down.
The type of activities that can be very beneficial for these children is proprioception activities like -pushing and pulling activities involving calculative use of pressure and weights. Pushing and pulling activities involve using the muscles in the arms and legs to move objects around. These activities can help build strength, improve coordination and balance, and promote cognitive development. Here are some examples of proprioceptive activities including weighted activities and pushing and pulling activities that can be adapted for children with multiple disabilities in home.
1. Weighted activities: Weighted activities can help children improve their body awareness and coordination. You can provide the children with weighted blankets or vests or simply hang a backpack with some books filled in it. Parents can encourage them to participate in activities such as drawing, reading, or playing with toys while wearing the weights. They can combine this activity of wearing weights with any of the above mentioned sensory, gross motor and fine activities from the list.
2. Tug-of-war: Tug-of-war is a fun and engaging proprioception activity that can help children improve their strength and coordination. You can use a soft rope or a large therapy band or a resistance band, and encourage the children to pull back and forth while standing or sitting down. Encourage them to pull against a partner or an object to build strength.
3. Wall push-ups: Wall push-ups are an excellent proprioception activity that can help children improve their upper body strength and coordination. You can have the children stand facing a wall, and encourage them to push against the wall with their hands while keeping their feet planted firmly on the ground.
4. Pushing and pulling activities: a number of pushing and pulling activities can be incorporated on a regular basis which have huge benefits to all the children.
a. Pushing a ball: Parents can encourage the child to push a ball with their hands or feet. This can be done on a flat surface or on a slight incline to add an extra challenge.
b. Pulling a laundry basket: Provide a laundry basket or washed utensils basket or a big cart that the child can pull around using a rope. This can be filled with toys to make it more engaging. For filling it with weights, other household objects [example-a 5kg or a 10 kg atta packet] can be directly put in the basket and can be pulled by the child.
c. Pushing a weighted object: Provide a weighted object such as a therapy ball or sandbag that the child can push across the floor. This can help build muscle strength and coordination. Parents can use above mentioned laundry basket or washed utensils basket even here as well. For filling it with weights, other household objects [example-a 5kg or a 10 kg atta packet] can be directly put in the basket and can be pushed by the child.
d. Pushing a stroller: Provide a toy stroller that the child can push around. This can be used to transport dolls or stuffed animals.
It is important to remember that each child is unique and may have different abilities and limitations. Activities should be adapted to meet the individual needs of each child. For example, some children may need additional support or assistance to participate in pushing and pulling activities.
Overall, pushing and pulling activities can be a fun and beneficial way to promote physical and cognitive development in children with multiple disabilities. By engaging in these activities, children can build strength, improve coordination, and gain a sense of accomplishment and independence.
So, vestibular and proprioception activities can help children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment improve their sensory processing and body awareness. These activities should be tailored to the specific needs and abilities of each child, and should be fun and engaging. By incorporating these activities into the children’s daily routine, occupational therapy can make a positive impact on their lives and help them thrive
In conclusion, occupational therapy activities can help children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment develop their skills and reach their full potential. These activities should be fun and engaging, and tailored to the specific needs and abilities of each child. Do get your child assessment done formally by a professional. Do seek any professional help and guidance if required. Some if these home- based occupational therapy activities can also be performed in playground, park etc. Customize, add or remove activities as per your child’s level. By incorporating these activities into the children’s daily routine, occupational therapy can make a positive impact on their lives and help them thrive.
In my upcoming blogs, I will be discussing activities of daily living starting with Toileting and personal hygiene skills which will be discussed next week. Further, eating and drinking skills, household chores skills, and other adl activities will be discussed each week.
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