For children who have multiple disabilities, sensory input and stimulation of certain muscles directly are essential towards helping them learn how to perform some physical activities on their own.
An example of this would be a child with Rett’s syndrome. They need massage therapy of the core muscles of the legs in order to assist them in going from a sitting to a standing position. By massaging and applying deep pressure, the muscles are encouraged to wake up and perform the job they were designed for. When a child has difficulty in recognizing their own hands and how to reach for thing, drawing and writing in different mediums can help stimulate the necessary muscles. One way in which therapists have success in this is with using an electric toothbrush to draw with as a precursor to developing other fine motor skills.
What You Will Need
If you think that your disabled child will benefit from this type of therapy, first purchase the following:
- Electric toothbrush
- Shaving cream
Now you should choose the medium you think that your child will be most responsive to and place it in front of your child with the electric toothbrush. If your child can, have them turn the toothbrush on, if not you can do that step for them. Now have your child begin to “draw” using the electric paintbrush and the medium they chose. It is that vibrating feeling from the toothbrush that is helping to stimulate the muscles, so make sure you don’t use a regular toothbrush.
Other Variations of the Therapy to Try
As you continue with the therapy, and your child gets used to the sensation, you can try different variations for more benefit:
- Use an easel to increase wrist extension and build leg muscle strength
- Use rubber bands or a foam noodle around the handle to make the electric toothbrush easier to hold
- If you use toothpaste you are also increasing the sensory experience because the minty smell gets stronger as your child brushes it
- Add food dye to shaving cream to make it colorful
- Change the paper and use things like bubble wrap, tin foil or even fabric
- Keep your child engaged in the activity by treating each finished work as an art piece and displaying it prominently where all can see it.
- Let your child see how the electric toothbrush is really supposed to work by mixing some soapy water and allowing them to clean something like a large rock.
- Buy a separate electric toothbrush and let your child use that one on their teeth. You can check review sites for a good one that is specifically designed for children.
Before begin therapy at home, make sure you discuss it with your child’s primary physician. While this is a common way to help with motor development in the hands, each case is different and your child could have special health circumstances that do not fit with this type of therapy