Swinging as therapy is a component of Sensory Integration therapy. We found a wonderful article that explains what it’s based on. It was found at http://www.thechildrenscenteraz.org/Sensory-Integration.html
What is Sensory Integration?
Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound and the pull of gravity. The process of the brain organizing and interpreting this information is called sensory integration. Sensory integration provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behavior.
For most children, sensory integration develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor planning ability is a natural outcome of the process, as is the ability to adapt to incoming sensations. But for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. When the process is disordered, a number of problems in learning, development, or behavior may become evident.
The concept of sensory integration comes from a body of work by A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., OTR. As an occupational therapist, Dr. Ayres was interested in the way in learning. This theory has been developed and refined by the research of Dr. Ayres, as well as other occupational and physical therapists. In addition, literature from the fields of neuropsychology, neurology, physiology, child development, and psychology has contributed to theory development and intervention strategies.
Sensory integration uses sensations from the body and the environment and organizes them into usable information to initiate and guide action. Every brain is constantly bombarded with sensations which must be correlated, interpreted, and then acted on. Most of the time this process is smooth, effortless and automatic. When it is NOT smooth and automatic, sensory integrative dysfunction is the result. For most of us only rarely is there a "glitch". However, for autistic, and many learning disabled individuals, failures and distortions in sensory organization are the norm. They live in a confusing, frightening world, where forms and sounds keep shifting and changing. If you are autistic, mother's voice may seem to come from the ceiling, and her words don't make sense. People are frightening because you can't predict how they are going to move or exactly where they are. You are much more sensitive than other people - a pat on the arm may feel like a blow; the comb pulling through your hair feels as if you are escape!
Since sensory input is the raw material - the ONLY raw material for brain development and learning, it is vital that the multi-various sensations be organized quickly and accurately. While most of us are used to thinking about vision and hearing as the main senses involved in learning, they are actually small in quantity compared to large pervasive inputs like the sense of balance and weight (vestibular system) and the sense of touch from the skin, which covers the whole body (tactile system). Other large sources of sensory data are the tendons, muscles and joints, known as the proprioceptors (proprioceptive system). These big sensory systems provide the essential unifying foundation for the organizing of vision, hearing, taste and smell.
It's logical, then, that therapists facilitate brain development by guiding the child to pleasurable activities providing vestibular, tactile and proprioceptive stimulation. It is not coincidental that young children spontaneously run, jump, spin, climb, and love all kinds of rough and tumble play. Some children, especially those who are developmentally delayed, do not get enough of these kinds of stimulation. For them, sensory integrative therapy can help to provide what has been lacking and stimulate more normal development. The fact that the brain can develop throughout life (neural plasticity) is what makes development possible.
One of the key elements in sensory integrative therapy is the child's active role in the process. The therapist's role is to use the child's interests and motivation as a guide to providing the "just right" challenge, - a challenge which can be met successfully. Each successful movement creates or strengthens neural connections which form the basis for the next success.
The therapist is the key component in sensory integrative therapy. He/she must know the nervous system, child development, and be an expert in analyzing and adapting activities to meet each child's needs. One important role of the therapist is to help parents understand the child's needs and provide as much as possible at home. The therapist can also help the child's teacher with methods of incorporating needed sensory activities into the classroom routine.
Since a person’s vestibular system is what is most strongly impacted by swinging we should have a clear idea of what it is.
An article we found at http://www.thechildrenscenteraz.org/files/QuickSiteImages/Vestibular_System.pdf states:
“It has been said that gravity is the essential fact of life on earth; therefore it is not strange that the vestibular system, which relates us to gravity, is very closely connected with the entire physiology of the body….. The vestibular system strongly influences muscle tone, since it tells muscles how much they need to contract to counteract the downward pull of gravity. And, of course, the vestibular system is best known as it determines our ability to balance, to climb stairs, to walk easily, to adjust to changing levels, to react promptly, (recover our balance) when we step in a hole. Such a pervasive system, which orients us in space, is the foundation with which all other sensory inputs must be correlated.” Furthermore the article continues, “A person who wakes up in a strange place can't process any other information until he can figure out where he is. If one is not getting reliable information from the vestibular system, the world is a very frightening place. It is safer not to move. Or, one can move very fast and hope for the best - but frequently fall and knock things over. Knowing where one is in space is the core ingredient of body concept, and some authorities insist that vestibular awareness of one's self in space is the basis for consciousness. “ It continues, “Typical children, from toddlers on through adolescents, provide themselves with an abundance of vestibular stimulation - jumping, swinging, turning somersaults, walking on top of the garden wall, riding skateboards, - mastering all varieties of movement through space. Today, many schools have removed swings and other playground equipment. So because of fear that a child might get hurt, children are damaged by lack of needed movement opportunities. Therapy, and/or enlightened parenting can help provide needed vestibular stimulation for special needs children.”
Here is a summary of some articles explaining the benefits of swinging
Swings Boost Ability for Autistic Kids
Lynn Moore at ( http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-integration-products.html offers some insight on how and why swinging offers many benefits as a part of an overall sensory integration regime.
"Sensory integration is difficult for many autistic children. Swings offer help with sensory integration.
Perhaps you are shopping for a gift for an autistic child. Perhaps you are planning how to set up your back yard (or a sensory room)for a son or daughter who is autistic. A swing can be a valuable investment and help children with sensory integration..
Autistic children crave deep pressure activities such as brushing, and yet they demonstrate tactile defensiveness. In the area of movement, the vestibular movement of activities such as swinging assists children in being able to process sensory input. Schools have long used swings to address vestibular sensory integration. In fact, many classes for autistic children have a swing hanging inside the classroom. Students may have regular times that they utilize this avenue to sensory integration.
Other programs for autistic children may have a sensory integration room where swings and other vestibular activities are available rain or shine. Swinging for a child who is autistic is more than just play.
What kind of swing is used in school programs?
One may visualize a classic swing similar to one hanging from a tree limb in a backyard. Although this type of swing would be beneficial in the sensory integration process, the swing used in schools and other therapy programs are different. These swings may offer platform-type seating with 360 degree range of motion. Other offer a sling that provides snug pressure as the child moves.
What kind of swing is available for home use?
Parents of autistic children who wish to provide similar sensory integration to school programs may explore commercially made equipment through special needs equipment suppliers."
Swinging provides essential vestibular movement to help children achieve normal developmental milestones, calming them and letting them have fun. TakeASwing provides safe and fun swinging equipment to meet your child or clients’ needs at any age level.
Swing Therapy For Autistic Children
Marina Mironov at http://ezinearticles.com/?Swing-Therapy-For-Autistic-Children&id=2123345 has some interesting thoughts regarding swinging as therapy. She writes:
"Most of us have no problem combining all our senses. For autistic children (and grownups) however, it's a mighty challenging task. Processing stimuli from the senses of sight, smell, sound, touch, taste, balance and body is overwhelming. Those suffering from autism will often withdraw to avoid over stimulation, or try to sort out the input from their senses with self-developed soothing mechanisms and repetitive behaviours.
A significant amount of occupational therapy for autism focuses on sensory integration through specially designed programs. Some of the greatest tools for sensory integration therapy for autism type disorders are various types of swings. People with various autism spectrum disorders such as Autism, PDD, ADHD, Asperger's, proprioceptive dysfunction and tactile defensiveness will benefit from using swings as part of their therapy.
Additionally, children and adults with Sensory Processing Disorders (also called Sensory Integration Disorders), especially those with proprioceptive or vestibular dysfunction, should definitely have swings or therapy hammocks as a crucial element of their treatment.
The benefits of the hammock (TakeASwing's adult and Jr SoftTacos)can be two-fold. Children who find the smooth, swaying motion soothing, will relax and unwind while using it. However, children who have a vestibular dysfunction will feel uneasy while in the hammock and might initially protest its use. For them, hammock therapy is more about regaining equilibrium and learning to tolerate vestibular stimuli.
The motion of swinging restores balance to the vestibular system, provides proprioceptive input (deep pressure) and generally helps autistic-spectrum children feel more "in balance". The soothing motion of swinging soothes, relaxes and increases concentration. Children who have trouble focusing on tasks such as reading or math, might find it easier to concentrate sitting in a hammock chair, their bodies engaged in a soothing motion."
Not only does TakeASwing provide fun, safe and effective swinging equipment our years of experience is readily available to you by simply contacting us at TakeASwing by phone at 505-286-5566 or fax: 505-286-1872 or at firstname.lastname@example.org