By Wendy Cox Blair, MS, Director
Never underestimate the power of sensory based therapy. That phrase is the ever present theme and mission at LifeSkills Academy. At LifeSkills Academy our students are immersed in a sensory based program that supports and challenges them while their sensory needs are being met and developed. Students who may seem out of control with wild behaviors, lack of language or academic challenges are met with therapeutic play such as swinging, jumping, moving heavy items, squishing into small places, climbing up the slide (yes up!), sliding in shaving cream, or listening to quiet music in a darkened room.
Who can be helped with a sensory based education? Honestly all children are better served through sensory integration activities as these activities meet the needs of all children. Think high intensity P.E. classes. At LifeSkills Academy our students come with various diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum, Persuasive Developmental Delays, Speech Delays, Learning Delays, and Sensory Processing Disorder. Sensory based therapy is not a free for all run around but a well planned, guided movement program that helps develop the neurological system of the child. Therapeutic play comes in many forms and changes throughout the life of the child.
Toddlers and Preschoolers: Bear hugs push & pull wagons, swinging, and messy play with different textures such as a sandbox, Play-Doh, jello, shaving cream and massages after baths to calm.
School-age: Jump (mini-trampolines work well), heavy muscle work (vacuum, carrying books, tug of war, pushing a wall), swinging, roll down a hill, go for a walk, bike ride, foot massages for calming
Teens and Adults: heavy lifting (free weights, carrying groceries), rake, push/pull heavy objects (furniture, wall pushup), get a massage, dance, swim, bike, walk, run, and take up a tactile hobby such as scrapbooking, gardening, sculpting.
What does that do for the kids and their ability to learn? By meeting the needs of each child’s body, we are able to help each child reach a calmer state of being. Instead of needing to run wildly around, they are able to sit, listen, and learn. Instead of being overwhelmed by the noise, light and people, they are able to tune out the world around them and hear what the teacher is saying. When a child reaches a state of calm, the ability to communicate is able to develop.
Students are immersed in a sensory “diet” at LifeSkills Academy throughout the day. The day begins with structured therapeutic group play that allows our students to get their bodies moving and ready to learn. The morning focuses on core academics such as reading, math, language arts, and writing. During this time, our students are encouraged to take breaks when they are needed and to move around the room to help maintain their ability to learn. A second structured therapeutic play period follows lunch that helps our students gear up for afternoon academics such as science and social studies, again with short breaks as needed.
Additionally, each student receives one-on-one occupational and speech therapy plus music therapy during the week to help with their individualized needs. These therapy sessions are reinforced in the classroom and group play setting.
Underestimating the power of sensory based therapy? Ask the parent who was told that their son would never speak and learn who at 7 is carrying on full conversations and working above grade level. Ask the mother of the 1st grader who was “fired” from 3 preschools and is now mainstreamed back into public school on grade level. It takes time, hard work, and lots of love and patience but it works.
Come and join the journey with us.
Wendy Cox Blair, MS Director
LifeSkills Academy of Orlando
1010 Spring Villas Pte. Winter Springs, FL 32708