Learning and growing through adaptive responses

An adaptive response can be defined as an appropriate action in which an individual responds successfully or make an adjustment to an environmental demand (Ayres 1979). It is a measure of the individual’s ability to cope with and successfully meet an environmental challenge. Integration of sensations is critical so that we can react to the sensations from our bodies and environment in a meaningful way. In order to keep on growing and learning, we must be internally driven to actively participate in a purposeful activity, so that we can build on previous positive experiences and gradually expand our ability to adapt. The effectiveness of an adaptive response depends on the accuracy of our sensory perception and sensory feedback from our bodies. Adaptive responses imply that we are a little more effective than what we were previously able to do.

In a therapy session, adaptive responses can be facilitated by means of creating the “just-right challenge”, not too easy, and not too difficulty, bearing in mind the child’s unique level of skill (including strengths and vulnerable areas). The child has to exert some effort to get it right, in other words, a little out of their comfort zone. In life, individuals have to face challenges that are presented by their environment or people in their environment, without taking into considering each individual’s capabilities or emotional state, which can sometimes be a stretch too far. Some might be more effective than others, seeing that the environment in life is not necessarily adapted to suit the individual’s needs or skill level. However, an informed person can assist someone else to achieve success, and experience a sense of mastery over their environment by making subtle changes to an activity, breaking tasks down into smaller steps, or providing a little bit of support, until the individual (child or adult) can do things successfully on their own.

Adaptive responses can be observed on different levels (Smith Roley, Blanche and Schaaf 2001):

  • Motor adaptive responses can easily be observed e.g. being able to hold on while swinging, or while being pulled/pushed, being able to maintain balance on a moving surface, being able to throw a ball into a basket, riding a bicycle over obstacles without falling off, being able to run and kick a ball, getting dressed independently, eating with utensils, independent toilet routines.
  • Organisation of behaviour in time and space can be observed when planning and packing for a holiday, or sports game the next day or the coming weekend.
  • Emotional adaptive responses can be observed when someone is able to remain calm in a stressful situation. For a child it might be having fun without the presence of a primary caregiver at a playgroup or birthday party. For older children or adults, it might be coping with slightly less sleep, or dealing effectively with unpredictable change, or going to an unfamiliar place to do something without exactly knowing what is expected.
  • Physiological adaptive responses can occur on an autonomic nervous system level which are not so easy to observe e.g. improved respiration and heart rates, digestive functions and sleep/wake cycles.

Remember that we all make mistakes, but we try and learn from them. Please reassure children that it is OK to make a mistake, things do not have to be perfect or work out perfectly the first time. Guide them through possible frustrations by finding alternative solutions so that they can try something different e.g. a different approach, to achieve success. There is more than one way to do something.

An important achievement for each family is that we just try our best everyday. Today’s best may not be the same as yesterday’s or tomorrow’s best, and that is OK. Participating in movement activities, getting some fresh air and vit D from the sunshine is wonderful for everyone.

When attempting new activities, remember that each child is different in terms of interests, age and skills, so we have to make sure that we present them with a challenge that is not too easy, or not too hard for them, but just right so they can exert some effort and achieve success. And to ultimately have fun!

Adaptive response 1: holding on & moving forward

Praxis and Rolling with the Corona-Coaster

A roller coaster ride is known for its speed, intensity of highs and lows, unexpected turns, and even elements like flames or splashing through a water tunnel, adding more fun to the adventure. It is described by the thrill seekers as exciting. They will go back for more, or look for even bigger and faster rides. Some might choose simply not to get on a roller coaster ride, and for others it will be their worst nightmare.

The past couple of months have been compared to a roller coaster ride by various people due to the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on our individual preferences, perceptions, and ideas, we have all had different experiences of lock down, as well as the ever-changing rules and regulations. Some are taking one day at a time, while others are able to care for their families and even beyond,supporting their communities.

The dilemma with this metaphor, is that a typical roller coaster ride is confined to a specific context such as a theme park. People have the choice (i.e. sense of autonomy) to go on them or not. It has a definite beginning and end. The external elements are controlled. There is some kind of protection from falling off (e.g. seat belt), and there are safety precautions to prevent the coaster from derailing. We can see it, and can form some idea of what is to be expected and around which exact corners the sudden drops are.

The Corona Coaster

With the proverbial Corona-coaster, it is probably like going on a roller coaster ride with a blindfold, a huge unknown. The unexpected twists and turns intensify the sensory event, never mind the risks involved when the proper safety precautions aren’t implemented.We do not have control over the fear-provoking elements, and there are so many news reports and critics, that we are not sure whose version to believe and which facts are accurate.

Illustration by Mies Jacobs

Read the full article here: https://instsi.co.za/praxis-and-rolling-with-the-corona-coaster/

Ideas with bottles and balls

When you have to stay at home this weekend, but would like to get your child playing outside, or trying something new with familiar things or toys, here are some fun activity ideas. Start collecting a few of these items around the house. Enjoy!

  • empty plastic bottles (especially 2L water, cold drink or milk containers)
  • a few balls around the house of different shapes and sizes
  • a small blanket
  • an old empty box or two
Ideas with bottles and balls
Ideas with blanket and ball

Ideas with balloons and balls

Here are some ideas for the kids to practice catching and throwing. Keep adding something new or interesting to keep them motivated and to keep on trying. It’s good for their eye-hand coordination and lots of fun too. Enjoy!☀️

Ideas with balloons, balls, and a scoop and net

Ideas for Strengthening Hands and Fingers Away From the Desk

Hi! I trust you are having a good week so far.

When school work is getting a bit much and the kids (or the parents) need a break, or get some fresh air outside, here are some ideas for strengthening their hand and finger muscles, away from tables, chairs and papers:

  1. Draw pictures or play tic-tac-toe with charcoal on the pavement
  2. Practice writing patterns in the sand or mud (can use their finger, or a rock or stick)
  3. Pop bubble wrap
  4. Make a tent with pegs over the washing line.

Remember, the more their hands and fingers work against resistance, the more feedback they get from their muscles and joints. This is good for building strength in their hands and fingers, as well as grading and guiding their fine motor movements more accurately.

They can work flat on the ground, or on a vertical surface. The more they can use their trunk muscles and shoulders, the better for their postural development.

Writing patterns in the mud, and drawing with charcoal.
Popping bubble wrap.
Make a tent over the washing line.

Enjoy the week, and remember to have fun with the kids too, you also deserve a break.

May you feel the warmth of the beautiful autumn colours in the changing of seasons

Ideas with Egg Boxes

Hi again! Children do not need expensive toys or electronic devices to have fun, they just need something novel and a little space. When you are busy cleaning and sorting the house again, it is a good idea to collect some “scrap” materials e.g. different containers, plastic bottles, toilet rolls and boxes.

There are many creative ideas for making things with egg boxes e.g. you can paint them, string them together or decorate them. There are some lovely websites when you google something like “craft ideas with egg boxes”.

However, after about 8 weeks in lockdown, we felt like doing something a little more destructive today 😅

You will need: egg boxes, rubber hammers, dry egg shells and spoons. Best to do this outside, or on a soft surface where the floor would not crack, and the kids are not able to hit each other by accident.

Smashing egg boxes
Smashing egg shells

These activities provide resistance (e.g weight of hammers, resistance of cardboard, action of smashing shells) and therefor good for strengthening hand and fingers muscles. These are also great for getting rid of some built-up frustration!

May you experience the beauty and blessing of simple joys ♥️

Ideas with Soft Toys and Feet

🐻 Find small soft things the child will be able to hold between his/her feet e.g. teddies, socks, cushions, bean bags or door stoppers.

Remember it should be:
✳️ small enough to hold,
✳️ heavy enough to provide some resistance so the child exerts some effort, but
✳️ soft enough that he/she will not get hurt if it lands on their faces by accident 🙂

💡Find a place where the child can lie on his/her back, head supported e.g. with pillow. Place a bowl or basket behind their heads that will be the target to drop the toys.

🎯 It can be done in two ways:

  • in the direction from their feet to their heads (toes-to-top) ,
  • from their heads to the feet (top-to-toes)

🎯 This activity is quick and relatively easy. Good for working on their tummy muscles!


Ideas with Swinging Targets

Good day! When it is almost weekend, and you are looking to get out of the house and do some fun activities with the kids, here are some ideas for Building Bodies.

Make different swinging targets by stuffing things you can find around the house such as:

🥊 old stockings with a tennis ball
🥊 plastic orange bag with balls/socks/small soft toys/ bean bags
🥊 buff with socks (tie ends with elastic/rope)
🥊 BIG continental pillow case with scatter cushions

Remember to:

✳️ Hang the targets where they will not hit something or someone else, or perhaps break a window
✳️ Ensure all knots are secured
✳️ Adjust height of target to about child’s eye level

🎯 A good tip to remember: Increase weight to provide more resistance against which the child needs to push/hit. This will enhance feedback from the child’s body that is helps to build and develop muscle strength, endurance and motor control.

Try different ways to hit the target:

💡 both hands together in midline, one hand on either side (forward hitting motion away from body)
💡 one hand above the other hand while holding onto the same end of e.g. the pool noodle (sideways movement, crossing body midline when hitting target from right and left sides)
💡 can hang two targets (both sides of the child); targets should be within reach when it swings, but far enough that child has to look at target and wait for it to swing closer in order to hit it (good for developing timing and eye-hand coordination)
💡 can encourage child to stand on a mat to limit walking/moving closer to target

Note the difference between forward and sideways hitting motion
Targets on right and left side, child trying not to move off the mat

Can also incorporate a trampoline so that the child can jump with both feet and hit/push target with hands.

For older children: use right/left hands alternating or together. Can also try and bump the swinging target with his/her head 🙂

Ideas with a Skateboard or Scooter Board

When children would like to get moving and try something different, here are some ideas to try. If you have a scooter board, the child can use it. Alternatively, you can make a scooter board with wood (+- 50 – 90 cm) and 4 swivel wheels.

If the board/plank has splinters, you can sand it down and cover it, or even cover it with a folded towel.

To get the most value out of the scooter / skateboard games, keep the following principles in mind:

  1. Experiment and use a variety of body positions e.g. lying on tummy, lying on back, sitting on knees, sitting with crossed legs, or standing on knees.
  2. Use a variety of objects to push and pull e.g. cooler, brother/sister, dolls/teddies, soft but heavy door stoppers.
  3. Use a variety of surfaces e.g. smooth tile floor is the easiest. Can also go on tar road, sand or grass (more difficult but good for older children). The heavier surfaces provide more resistance so children get more feedback through their bodies when they have to pull harder.
  4. Use different inclines e.g. it is easier to start on a straight level, then try subtle downhill and uphill inclines. Uphill is more difficult but provides more feedback🙂
  5. Use different ropes and things to pull on e.g. trapeze, pool noodle, rolling pin, rolled up and knotted sheet or cloth, or rope. Tie it onto something very strong and stable (e.g. pole or tree) so that the children don’t perhaps pull something over onto themselves.
  6. Children can try different hand positions: holding onto a rolling pin with hands next to one another, holding with one hand above another hand on pool noodle, or using alternating hands e.g by putting one hand in front of the other hand while pulling self forwards onto rope.

Above activities assist with developing tummy and back muscles that are needed for balance, and are also good for strengthening shoulder, arm and hand muscles.

It is usually lots of fun too. Enjoy!

Use different ropes and things to pull.

The following videos show how the level of difficulty can be increased, and how ropes and things to experiment with, can be combined.

Ideas with a Trapeze

Here are some activity ideas that are fun and easy to do at home. These games will help with their motor development, sensory and emotional regulation, and to blow off steam when school work or other pressure is getting challenging. Although these activities can be done indoors, they are ideal to do outside if possible, which will help them to get off the couches and screens, which is something we are all battling with.

Do what you can or feel that you have energy for. The idea is to share ideas and to spark creativity.

Make a trapeze out of an old broom stick. Make sure that you hang it up where the kids will not get hurt or fall. Make sure all knots are secured.

Spinning, just for fun. Encourage the child to stop in between, and to change direction. Check regularly to see that they do not get dizzy or feel over-stimulated.
Swinging and landing: good for developing awareness of judging distance and timing.
Jumping and pulling up with two hands. Encourage child to try and hold the position for a couple of seconds, or as long as possible. Good for postural control and strength in hands, Ensure child is holding the trapeze with the hold hand, and the thumb closed under the bar.
Running and kicking away against hard surface such as a tree or wall. Can encourage child to keep legs lifted and not touch the ground between pushes. Good for facilitating shoulder stability and trunk control, especially tummy muscles.
Swing and drop socks in a laundry basket, which is a stable target and the child can focus on her own movements. Now also incorporating eye muscles as the child has to look at the target and judge when to drop the socks in the right place and at the right moment.
Swing and drop balls with different sizes in a laundry basket. Different sizes and weight provide different feedback and the child has to adapt to the subtle differences in order to grade movements and achieve success by not over- or under-shooting and missing the target.
Use heavier toys to increase weight of objects that the child has to lift, which is good for increasing resistance and providing more sensory feedback through the child’s whole body.
Lifting legs over a higher object such as a cooler, and landing on both sides. Can repeat a couple of times.
Making it more difficult as child is encouraged to lift legs a little bit higher over the cooler in order to drop the toys with different sizes and weight in the basket on the other side of the cooler.
Keep legs together and jump over a rolling ball while holding onto the trapeze. Now also incorporating a moving target which the child does not have control over.
Swing and kick a ball that is thrown towards child at about hip height. This is more difficult as the ball is coming towards the child much faster than when it was rolling on the ground. The child also has to coordinate swinging movements to kick the ball that is coming towards the child in the air at just the right moment. Timing is crucial here.

To summarise activity ideas with a trapeze:

  • Spin
  • Swing and land
  • Pull-ups
  • Kick against a hard surface like a tree or pole
  • Throw objects with different sizes and weight in a basket
  • Lift legs and swing over a higher object e.g. cooler
  • Throw objects into the basket while lifting legs over the cooler
  • Hold knees together and swing over a rolling ball
  • Swing and kick a ball that is thrown by an adult or sibling

Coping with Corona: Finding balance, getting organised and evolving into the new

This blog was published on 22 April 2020 on the SAISI website (The South African Institute For Sensory Integration)

‘Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’ – Alice in Wonderland

Who would have thought… it might be possible to bring the world to a standstill: from work, school, and sport, to restaurants, movies, flights, conferences and many more unthinkable events? That lions would be resting on a golf course, that penguins would walk down the street, and that a kudu could calmly roam a suburb. It was also noted that the pollution levels have dropped so significantly, that the Himalayas can be seen from 200km away.

Read the full article here: http://instsi.co.za/coping-with-corona-finding-balance-getting-organised-and-evolving-into-the-new/

The Show Must Go On

This blog was published on 11 December 2019 on the SAISI website (The South African Institute For Sensory Integration)

“The Show Must Go On” is a popular phrase we are all familiar with. The well-known hit song by Queen, “The show must go on” (1991) has a catchy melody, but when we listen closely to the lyrics, it is tainted with anguish and suffering.The phrase was first coined by a circus back in the late 1800’s. Although there is no record of which circus used it first, the phrase caught on and was used by other circuses. It was used by the ringmaster when there was an incident, such as an animal getting loose. It was an effort to keep patrons calm and reassured. “The show must go on“ was printed in the Evansville (IL) Daily Journal on September 12, 1866 and in The Morning Republican (Scranton, PA) on December 13, 1875. In the 1900’s, the term spread to all of show business as a catch phrase meaning keep the show going regardless of what interferes. The expression soon applied to any kind of “show,” even a political show. (Quora.com) “The show must go on” became a proverbial phrase widely used in quotes and in various contexts since the 1800’s, and is still current today in the 21st century.

Read the full article here: http://instsi.co.za/the-show-must-go-on/

The Purpose and Power of Play: Part II

This blog was published on 2 October 2019 on the SAISI website (The South African Institute For Sensory Integration) 

Today we look at the theory of play in the second of a two-part blog post written by Stefanie Kruger, an ASI-certified therapist, long-standing board member of SAISI and lecturer.

At the end of last term, we went grocery shopping to buy a few things for the weekend, when my kids saw the shelf with toys. Usually I would walk straight past it, but we all had a happy holiday feeling and we paused to take a look. The Rubix cubes caught their eye, and they pleaded to buy it with their pocket money which made my OT-mommy-heart proud.

Read the full article here: http://instsi.co.za/the-purpose-and-power-of-play-part-ii/

The Purpose and Power of Play : Part I

This blog was published on 25 September 2019 on the SAISI website (The South African Institute For Sensory Integration)

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood” – Fred Rogers

From the “old days” to our current times a.k.a “van toeka tot nou”

Our children often ask us how things were in the “old days”. And much to their surprise, there were no cell phones, internet, wifi, Xbox and tablets when we were growing up. We grew up in a time where we could ride our bikes in the neighbourhood, or roller skate to our friends’ houses, and swim until it got dark. We made mud-cakes and had pretend tea parties, or built forts and had a pretend war against a fierce enemy. We camouflaged ourselves with charcoal stripes on our cheeks and leaves in our hair. We wore uniforms that we created from scrap pieces of material from our mothers’ sewing cupboards. It is true that times have changed and that we should not compare the way our children are brought up with the way things were in the “old days”. The needs of children have stayed the same, but they are somehow expected to walk, talk, read, behave and perform as soon as possible, even before they are neurologically or emotionally ready. In fact, everything has sped up in this modern day and age, even for us as parents.

Read the full article here: http://instsi.co.za/the-purpose-and-power-of-play-part-i/