It looked like just a swing. But for Kassidy* it was an opening. She had sat in many offices with adults who tried to get her to “open up” about her trauma.
When she came to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, our Occupational Therapy (OT) team didn’t pressure Kassidy to bare her heart and soul. Instead, they told her they would spend their time finding things she could do to feel more relaxed and less anxious.
OTs told Kassidy that our body remembers what it experienced—sometimes instead of talking about the things that happened to us, we can learn to recognize what our body is telling us. That knowledge will help us figure out how to respond to our feelings.
One day, Kassidy was feeling out of sorts and told the team what she was feeling in her body. To Kassidy’s surprise, they suggested she sit in the swing. As she swayed back and forth in the swing, something lifted. She felt better.
In the weeks to come, Kassidy used the swing at every session, and she started sharing more. She also became more apt to listen to their suggestions for coping. Together, Kassidy and the Occupational Therapists were able to find ways to create appropriate movement in her body when she felt stressed and wasn’t near a swing.
Kassidy learned she could gain control of her actions if she made the right choices.
A simple swing helped Kassidy begin the process of healing.
*Name changed to protect confidentiality
About the Swing
For children who have difficulty processing sensory information, swinging is more than just play. A swing can be used in therapy by impacting sensory integration, a process the brain uses to process and integrate incoming information like touch, movement, sight, sound, and the pull of gravity.
Most of the time this process is smooth, effortless, and automatic. When it is NOT smooth and automatic, children can be overwhelmed by the outside world and develop problems in learning, development, and behavior.
Sensory integration therapy, developed in the 1970s by Occupational Therapist A. Jean Ayres, is used by therapists to facilitate brain development. Pleasurable activities, like swinging, can restore balance to the body and allow the brain to create or strengthen neural connections that will help the child process incoming stimuli. For some children, the soothing motion of swinging soothes, relaxes, and increases concentration.
Other sensory integration activities used at the Ranch include weighted blankets, wobble chairs and rockers, spin tables, trampolines, compression clothing, noise reduction headphones, and lighting filters.
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