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Sensory Therapy for Autism With a Swiss Ball

Swiss Ball Therapy for AutismSwiss balls / Exercise balls/ Therapy balls are a commonly used at Occupational therapy and Physiotherapy centers. These are used to for both motor and sensory therapy. Swiss balls can be easily used, even at home to provide vestibular and proprioceptive input. You can do many sensory activities with a Swiss ball that can become part of your child’s daily sensory diet. With new varieties of Swiss balls available easily in the market, they can now be used to provide other sensations like visual, tactile and auditory. Here are few ideas to get you started:

Proprioceptive Sensation:
To provide this input, roll the Swiss ball over your child like a road roller. If your child does not allow you to do that, encourage therapy by including your other kids in the activity. Make them all lie on the floor  next to each other and road roll the ball over them.

Another way is to gently press the ball over the child’s body (care should be taken not to press to hard over the abdomen). This can also be combined with a technique called neutral warmth i.e: the child is wrapped in a blanket tightly and then the ball is used. The activity can be performed by the usual Swiss balls, or even pea balls. A pea ball is a modified Swiss ball  in the shape of a peanut, thereby helping you to control the amount of pressure given to the child more easily( press gently on the sides of the ball to provide adequate pressure).

For stimulation to hands and feet, make the child  push the ball up and down the wall (using hands) and against the wall (using legs). Playing catch or kicking the ball also provides similar stimulation. Ask your child to hold the therapy ball by enveloping the ball and squeeze to provide more input to the arms.

Vestibular Sensation
You must have seen therapists bouncing a child on the ball. Make this activity even more fun by using a hippity ball ( it has a handle the child can hold on to, while bouncing). This allows the child to bounce themselves without falling off. You can also get a smaller Swiss ball which allows the child to place his feet on the ground, reducing the risk of falling. Count the number of times your child can bounce on the ball or have a hippity race. For the race, make a track and encourage your child to bounce from one point to another. For adding challenge to the activity, form the track using cones (in the shape of “S” ) so that your child has to both bounce and maneuver the track.

Visual, Tactile and  Auditory Sensation:
New varieties of Swiss balls allow for new activities and a whole new range of sensations.

Activity balls: These are Swiss balls that have different colored balls inside that fly around when the ball is bounced or rolled.

  • Each time your child rolls or bounces the activity ball, the colored balls inside provide visual input. Encourage your child to incorporate the activity balls in his/ her play .
  • Another idea is to  keep the ball bouncing so that the colored balls continue to fly for a long time.
  • Use the activity ball as a timer i.e let your child pick up some objects before the colored balls stop rolling.

Massage therapy ball: These have hundreds of nubs along its surface thereby providing a sensation of touch when the ball is rubbed, rolled, pulled and pushed.

For auditory sensations encourage your child to drum on the Swiss balls. Teach your child various beats to drum on the ball, or have a music symphony where your child is the drummer and you have another musical instrument. Place the balls on various surfaces like a wooden floor, cemented floor or carpeted floor to get different drumming sounds.

Before I let you go, let me jot down a few fun games using Swiss balls which you can try at home:

Naming game:
Name the body part / direction in which you want the child to hand the ball towards you. Instruct your child to roll the ball using his knee / elbows. Lift and pass the ball over the child’s head or between his feet or on either side of his body.

Relay game:
Dribble or push the Swiss balls around an obstacle course and pass it to another child at the end of the lane and continue back and forth.

Itsy bitsy Spider:
Sing the rhyme and roll the ball up and down the wall along with the rhyme.

So, go and buy a Swiss ball and start sensory therapy at home. Try out these ideas  and let us know how they worked for you.

Sarah Joseph

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