Parenting Special Needs Magazine - March/April 2017

Encourage Your Children

Kathryn Lavin, MSW, Executive Director, National Lekotek Center 2017-03-17 12:04:29

WEPLAY UP ON TOP CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO AUDIO VERSION OF THE ARTICLE. When I see children giggling with joy in our Lekotek playrooms, they are almost always moving - chasing a bubble, swinging from a swing, jumping on a trampoline, riding a rocking horse, pretending to be a superhero. There is something innately inherent in the “joy of play” that involves movement. As parents, there is a lot of movement we do with our children - moving them in and out of car seats or grocery carts or beds. We crawl under the couch for a missing ball, sweep a multitude of Cheerios off our kitchen floors and bounce from here to there. Yet, one of the most slippery of slopes that we, as parents of children with special needs, can tread is thinking that purposeful or therapeutic movements can replace playful and joyful ones. Moving with Joy At times movement for and with our children can feel like a chore (how many successful bilateral coordinated movements did my daughter make while tossing a block into a bucket?). If you know what I mean by “bilateral coordinated movements” then you probably connect to the concept of chore. There is no doubt that the benefits of therapeutic movement are undeniable; yet so is moving with joy. Even still, it IS possible to move both with purpose AND with joy. We have all heard about the importance of balance among the body, mind and spirit. It is when these three aspects of ourselves are engaged, that we find true balance. The same is true for moving with joy and it is only with the inclusion of one’s spirit that we are able to do so. The key to engaging one’s spirit involves allowing ourselves to actively use our imaginations. When we engage in using our imaginations, we can fly like Superheroes, jump from river rock to river rock as we venture out on a knightly quest, float like butterflies under a parachute of colors, carefully balance and walk across a tight rope while birds are perched on our heads, or squish each other into the richest, tastiest tortilla wrap. Furthermore, if we want our children to move with joy, then it is also important that WE move with joy, for we are their lifelong teachers and role models. Do you find for example that the exercise you do is a chore or do you engage in something that makes you FEEL good and lifts your spirit? Is there an activity you liked to do as a child that you are not doing now or haven’t taught your child to do? Almost any sport or activity can be modified for our children and there are great resources that are available across the country. Finally, how often do you just laugh or laugh with your children? I think of laughter as a form of exercise as it requires the use of both the muscular and respiratory systems, and it certainly guarantees that you are moving with joy. Moving with joy is perhaps one of the best lessons that we can give our children. Not only does it teach our children the importance of keeping our bodies healthy, it reinforces the necessity to balance our body, mind and spirit. In addition, fueling our movement with imagination and moving with joy TOGETHER builds everlasting memories and bonds with our children. Kathryn Lavin, MSW, Executive Director b Kathryn received her master’s degree in Management and Policy (Jane Addams School of Social Work) and has worked in the disability field over 20 years; worked at the Institute on Disability and Human Development; served on the board of the National Association for Down syndrome; founding member of the Belle Center of Chicago; currently serves on the Chicago Community Trust’s Persons with Disabilities Fund. weplay toys Win it! WEPLAY UP ON TOP: Carefully place We Play Up On Top on top of the while sitting, standing or walking. Players can stack 1,2 or 3 depending on ability level. HANDPRINTS & FOOTPRINTS: Brightly colored, anti-slip handprints and footprints sold as an add-on to the We Play obstacle course. Handprints and Footprints are textured with rubbery bumps. WEPLAY TWIGGLE TOSS: This game combines the classic ring toss and bean bag toss games. Movable part and rocking base provides various levels of challenge.

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