Therapy Swings – How They Help Students at School

In sensory therapy, some approaches work better than others. One proven therapeutic treatment is the use of therapy swings. There are many versions of swings available today, each with specific functions and purposes. Occupational therapists incorporate them into sensory integration therapy with various goals depending on the student’s needs. More and more schools use these valuable tools today than ever before, and students across the spectrum of learning challenges can benefit significantly from them. Whether students need to calm down, recover from overstimulation, or develop their sensory processing capabilities, a swing may offer the solution.

Occupational Therapy Swings

Therapy swings, also known as sensory swings, are a useful tool in occupational therapy. However, in the past, most treatments happened in a clinical setting, not in schools. As school recess times shorten and busy families avoid the playground swing set, swinging is on the decline. OTs increasingly use swings in their treatment approaches, though, and the consistently positive results remind them of their value.

In the past, occupational therapists saw the value of the swinging motion on children. The vestibular system, centered in the inner ear, is stimulated by the movement of swinging. Children enjoy the act of swinging because it releases dopamine in the brain, causing pleasure, and provides them an increased sense of spatial awareness. School use of these devices was, historically, to improve their sensory processing.

More OTs today, though, realize the impact that therapy swings can have in the school setting. Recent developments in technology and design have unlocked many new versions, but the function is generally the same. The swinging motion itself is the main draw, but modern engineering helps children with different challenges. There are many versions of sensory swings, including:

  • Therapy net swing: this swing protects children from falling out, providing safe and effective treatment.
  • Cocoon swing: particularly useful for children with autism, it envelops and calms students.
  • Indoor doorframe swing: portable and easy to move from place to place, this version can integrate into any classroom.
  • Nest swing: this design lets students lie flat and spin, allowing maximum vestibular stimulation.
  • Trapeze swing: these swings offer students the sensation of hanging, with a safe method
  • Platform swing: these versatile swings work with students of all ability levels, and OTs can use them in any office or classroom space
  • Hammock swing: this version combines the relaxation and soothing comfort of a hammock with the swinging, stimulating motion that students desire.

Occupational therapy, and the tools it uses, have evolved in schools. As specialists obtain more focused expertise, they can implement new strategies in the school environment, and therapy swings reflect that evolution.

Cost and Funding of Therapy Swings in Schools

Therapy swings have a wide range of costs, depending on the item’s size, quality, design, and complexity. Fortunately, there are creative ways to get Occupational Therapy swings into the classroom and school. There are funding options whether the item is for a fully-equipped sensory room at school or a select purchase for OT use. Schools can apply for grants from many organizations that assist students with special needs. Crowdfunding, fundraising, and community and business donations are all methods of raising money for therapy swings.

Not all schools have therapy swings. If your school needs a therapy swing, it will be required to provide evidence that it is a necessity for student success. The case can be made that many students, whether they are in general education, or in special education with sensory challenges, can benefit from swinging. Anxiety affects students throughout all demographics and cognitive levels, and a swing can be a necessary anti-anxiety solution for schools. Some students that can take advantage of a therapy swing:

  • Children with autism
  • Overstimulated students, who calm down with the swinging motion
  • Students with attention deficits
  • All grades and age levels, whether for calming or stimulation
  • Students who use wheelchairs
  • Children who need to release energy
  • Individuals that require the development of core muscles
  • Those increasing their sensory awareness, visual, proprioceptive (positioning and movement of the body), and tactile

Schools are a mixed bag of students with various needs and sensory demands. A swing can be a valuable tool for any school. 

What Are the Benefits of Swing Therapy?

Swing therapy provides a wide variety of benefits to students. Children can work on developing gross motor skills, for example. Several body functions develop and bolster through swinging, including the vestibular, proprioceptive, and brain processing functions, which increase with sensory swings. Children who experience anxiety, loss of control, and feelings of helplessness can connect with the Occupational Therapist in a swinging session. All students, and especially those with special needs, need breaks throughout the school day. Swings provide that opportunity, with the added therapeutic benefit of sensory development and emotional security.

School stakeholders, especially teachers and administrators, can realize the immediate impact of sensory swings. Special education teachers can provide students the opportunity to take swinging breaks, either for under-stimulation or overstimulation. Many IEPs recommend breaks as accommodations, while not defining how that looks in practice. Swings, however, can be an ideal solution – both for maintaining the classroom environment and allowing students a productive respite. Administrators can also quickly see the benefit of therapy swings. Not only can you raise your students’ performance and satisfaction to their highest potentials, but all members of your school community can reap the benefits, as well. Teachers, specialists, parents – and, above all, children – will profit from therapy swings, while you maintain compliance with educational regulations and model best practices.

If you are a teacher or therapist on the cutting edge of education, ready to utilize proven and exciting techniques, ProCare is ready to help you. Administrators, if you are forward-thinking, results-driven, and expect only the best, qualified staff you can find, list your job opportunity with us. No matter your role at a school, ProCare can help you reach your highest potential and make sure to search our through our occupational therapy jobs through the button below.

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