Swings & Therapeutic Play

Many children say “No!” to playgrounds and play sets because they don’t like the feel of metal bars, damp slides or are not motivated enough. Some parents don’t like to take their special needs children outside with their weak immune systems when the weather is changing for fear they will get sick. There could be many other reasons why your child may not be able to play at the park.

But it is essential for children with Autism or Sensory Processing Disorder to get heavy work input (proprioception to help calm and organize their Central Nervous System. The inputSteamroller may help improve self-regulation, focus, attention, strength and coordination. It can also help increase their interest in exercise vs. screen time, decrease fidgeting and self-stimming behaviors.

You can bring the sensory exercise indoors with a doorway swing set. Instead of breaking furniture that is not meant for crashing into you can get a safe and reliable doorway swing package to help your child self-regulate through vestibular (swinging) and proprioceptive (hanging or pumping) input that their body craves.

Here are some fun therapeutic games you can play with your child.

*Adult supervision is always recommended during all exercises and a safety mat underneath and around the swings may decrease injuries.

Indoor therapy2



Net Swing – Have them look at an I-Spy book, use a chewy for a mouth tool, do their homework inside it, read or listen to an audio book or music, draw a picture of the family or just play and relax with calming hand fidgets to de-stress the Central Nervous System.




Indoor therapy

Trapeze Bar  – Use feet to trap a beanie baby or other small items and fling it into a target while hanging from trapeze, perform flips, hold gymnastic inspired L-sit or Pull up pose, swing and crash into a Crash Pad and look for a puzzle piece or other object.

Indoor therapy1Strap Swing – Swing and crash, pump and swing to favorite music to improve mood, perform hip/knee tucks with swing on shins in push up position for upper body and core strengthening, parent waits for a secret code word or signal to roll the therapy ball for the child to lift up their feet>swing>kick the ball back to parent.






Alex Lopiccolo is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Consultant, Jin Shin Practitioner, Wilbarger Therapressure Brushing Protocol Practitioner, Therapeutic Listening Program Practitioner who explores Sensory Integration inspired therapeutic activities. Alex, his wife and baby live in Edmonds, Washington. His favorite activities are spending time with his family and exploring the Pacific Northwest.

How Therapists Teach Social Skills – Strategies they Use

Connecting with others, young or old, has been my strength since I was a child. I attribute this largely to participating in “heavy work” sports such as wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well as participating regularly in play dates that involved gross motor activities.

When combining proprioceptive (heavy work for organizing the Central Nervous Jaxx LoungerSystem) and vestibular (body awareness/balance) activities at a high intensity we are able to emotionally regulate and socially participate at an optimal alert state.  This is how I have run “Boot Camps” at pediatric OT clinics, in which the children love to engage and bond with other children.

The number one key with children who have poor social skills is to boost their self-esteem and confidence with their gross motor skill set. As a therapist, I feel it is very important to demonstrate the activities to increase mirror neuron connections (socially and motor wise) in which to gain a better Motor Planning Value Pack_Got-Autismunderstanding and watch their mentor/role model show their leadership.  By having them complete various heavy work challenges or obstacle courses they will want to show other kids that they have created something cool and how to do it.

I have the child break down the activity step-by-step to me after they have feel confident. You can have your client/child invite others by saying, “Do you want to play?” to the next child that is near their maturity level.  Once they have performed my client’s 6 Social Skills_Got-autismactivity the other child gets to be the leader next time, showing them something new and exciting.  That one monstrous first step is the social connection bridge to Friendship Island.

By performing full body movement based activities humans release endorphins which improve your emotional state.  You will notice the children’s energy and mood become more positive.  During a group Boot Camp, I will choose a theme that all children have in common. Then have Teaching Cash Register4_Got-Autismthem work together as the GREEN team which means when they follow directions, are safe while using teamwork skills and are positive during a challenge, their team gets a point.  If they are being negative, impulsive, unsafe, getting distracted the other RED team gets a point. The children will work together through the thick and thin to defeat Barnyard Animal Buzzers1_Got-Autismthe opposing (imagery) team.

When children relate on common grounds during gross motor play it makes a world of difference on their interaction with others peers.  Sign up your child for a gross motor social skills group and you will see a difference on how they socialize at school, in public and at home.



Alex Lopiccolo is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Consultant, Jin Shin Practitioner, Wilbarger Therapressure Brushing Protocol Practitioner, Therapeutic Listening Program Practitioner who explores Sensory Integration inspired therapeutic activities. Alex, his wife and baby live in Edmonds, Washington. His favorite activities are spending time with his family and exploring the Pacific Northwest.