How to Sneak in Physical Therapy on Vacation
How to Sneak in Physical Therapy on Vacation
Spring break approaches. Summer approaches. Trips are planned. What you can’t always plan, however, is getting the physical activity your child might need. Vacations are great, but they also mean breaks from those physical and occupational therapies that provide the opportunity for your child to move. As a mom to a son with cerebral palsy, I’ve developed that superpower which all special needs parents share, the power of improvisation. And because you can’t take the treadmill, the gait trainer, and the stander in the car with you, I’m offering my best tips for sneaking in physical activity while you are away.
Squeeze Balls: If you’re stuck in the car bring a few squeeze balls (the foam kind or the old hacky sack version) and encourage them to practice their hand strength. Make it a game and have them squeeze every time they see a certain colored car.
Yoga Bands: Bring those yoga bands. These are great for sneaking in calf stretches while sitting or bicep/tricep stretches if you’ve got the wiggle room.
Obstacle course: Make the most of those pit stops. Orange cones are cheap. Buy a few and set them up at a rest area. Let them practice their wheelchair wheelies. Or if you have other kids, let them race to the finish line.
In the hotel/motel/condo:
1. Yoga Ball: The inflatable yoga ball is magic for balancing, stretching, and core strength. It also folds flat for easy packing.
2. Explore New Heights: Most hotels have side tables and kitchen counters and beds at different heights from what you have at home. If your child can stand with support, help them practice at these new stations. Each new angle works a different muscle sets and postures while also allowing them to explore their new environment.
3. Scavenger Hunt in the Lounge: This one requires a bit of planning. But we’ve discovered most concierges are more than willing to let us take advantage of the lounge/breakfast area in its off hours. We’ve hidden everything from oranges to toy trucks under tables and on windowsills. It’s a great way to let your child get familiar with their new environment while working on walking or wheeling.
4. Towel Stretches: Roll up one or a few towels (depending on the needs of your child) and position them under their arms while lying prone to stretch those chest, neck, and back muscles. Encourage them to lift their head for extra core work. Try it yourself. It’s harder than it sounds.
5. Special Yoga: Special needs yoga can be done anywhere. You can look up free YouTube videos or bring along some DVDs. We like Yogability. This is a great morning or bedtime activity. The poses are gentle and relaxing and easy for you to do with your child.
6. Pool Time: See if you can get access to a pool, either at your hotel or the nearest recreational center. Even if you do nothing but let your child experience weightlessness for ten minutes, it will be worth it. The benefits of aquatic therapy are endless. It loosens up all the muscles that stretching might miss.
If you have access to water:
1. Ocean/Lake swimming: This works the same magic as the pool. You also get the added bonus of balance work while bobbing and dodging waves.
2. Beach wheelchairs: Everyday wheelchairs become impossible to navigate in sand. Check to see if your resort or nearby beach rental stores carry specially designed beach wheelchairs. These are outfitted with larger and wider wheels so your child can roll along with the rest of the family without sinking.
3. Travel Sets: Bowling, horseshoes, and bats and balls: We often bring these along for a game the whole family. It encourages independent movement of each side of the body as they roll, throw, or swing.
4. Rafting/Canoeing: This is another great way to let your child work their core strength and participate with the rest of the family. As long as the water is gentle, your child can either sit in your lap with minimal assistance or you can bring along a travel chair.
5. Park Time: Swings sets and sandboxes and slides get everyone moving. To stimulate the leg muscles and provide a gentle counter weight, pile sand on top of your child’s legs so they can work both their abdominal and back muscles.
6. Hiking: Let your child hitch a ride on the family hike. Certain backpacks can fit a child up to 40 pounds. Just make sure you test it out first to make certain both you and your child are comfortable. We like the one by Ospray Poco AG Plus Child Carrier. The leg extension provides an excellent stretch for your child while you walk.
7. Horseback Riding: Equestrian therapy has been one of the biggest components in improving our son’s gait and balance. Check to see if your area has access to horseback riding. It does not have to be a facility that specializes in horse therapy. You will still see benefits by simply walking next to your child and providing most of the support.
Jamie Sumner is mother to a son with cerebral palsy and Beckwith- Wiedemann Syndrome and is the author of the blog, The Mom Gene. Her son’s story has been featured in The Tennessean and YooCanFind.com.
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This post originally appeared on our March/April 2017 Magazine