Studies into the benefits of Hydrotherapy for children with disabilities suggests it can increase:
•toleration of touch
•initiation and maintenance of eye contact
Children with ASDs and their parents described aquatic therapy, water play skills, and swimming as enjoyable.
Studies have shown that hydrotherapy has led to significant improvements in social interactions and behaviours following hydrotherapy intervention. There is also a suggestion that hydrotherapy can lead to a significant reduction in hostile/irritable and antisocial behaviour.
Studies have also shown how children with ASD who received regular hydrotherapy sessions made great improvement in social and physical interactions.
There is a lot of research about using aromatherapy and massage in developing social interaction skills amongst children with disabilities. Linked to the areas of the brain governing instinct, memory and emotion, our sense of smell is the most primitive of our senses. Through the pathways between smell and the deep centres of the brain, essential oils can have a dynamic effect on emotional state. They can help transform moods and movement from one state of mind to another. Aromatherapy can also help ease muscular aches and pains and improve circulation. The senses of touch and smell can compensate for the loss of other senses and allow children to be able to discover other channels by which they can communicate to the outside world.
Medical professionals recognise that there are significant therapeutic benefits for riders of horses. The warmth and three dimensional movement of the horse is transmitted through the rider’s body, gradually making it more relaxed and supple, strengthening core stability, reducing spasms and improving balance, posture and co-ordination.
Riding offers an element of excitement and risk often denied to people with disabilities. It can be a means to relax or compete.
Riding horses and ponies is an excellent way of giving people with physical and mental disabilities a sense of independence and freedom. The horse’s movements stimulate the mind and muscle responses from disabled children. Riding demands both physical and mental concentration and the horse responds to direct and clear body language. Thus the rider experiences a range of movement sensations from jerky, bouncy, lazy or smooth feelings.
The benefits for disabled riders are:
•Relaxation of tight joints through the gentle movement of the horse
•Development of balance and co-ordination
•Exercise and strengthen seldom used or tense muscles
•Promote a sense of well-being and increased confidence for the rider
•Meet a new challenge and give the rider a real sense of achievement
•Explore the open countryside not usually accessible to disabled people
•Have some fun and create a memorable occasion
•Meeting new friends in both helpers and the horses
Playing music and music therapy has proven to be a very effective method in dealing with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Most children diagnosed with Autism lack the social skills that enable them to participate fully in play and other social situations. Interestingly, many children with autism show a heightened interest in music. While they may be unable to easily communicate verbally with others, music is an avenue for many autistic people to express themselves and communicate in a non-verbal, non-threatening manner. Playing music puts the individual at ease, allowing for strides in social interactions to follow.
Group musical activities motivate interaction, facilitate socialization and improve social skills. Music making involves many of the fundamental elements of social interaction like turn taking and listening and responding to another person.
Research has shown that music lessons have a positive effect on reading and mathematic achievement in early childhood and adolescence. Playing instruments and dancing to the beat of the music can improve fine and gross motor skills. Music has a soothing effect and research has shown that it relieves stress, which can make music an instantly gratifying experience.
For children who have difficulty communicating verbally, music provides a way to express themselves and communicate in a non-verbal, non-threatening manner.
Music is a tool that is used in pain management and healing for children undergoing medical procedures. Music can act as a powerful distraction, turning the patient’s attention away from pain and promoting relaxation as well as helping to promote movement and ease muscle tension.