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  • Writer's pictureGary Martinez, Jr.

The Benefits of Swing Set Play for Autistic Children

I’m driving to Midland Elementary, a favorite school my daughter Monica likes to swing at. Monica likes the taller swing set because it provides stability and comfort to her sensory needs. She was diagnosed with autism and sensory processing disorder at around age six and is now 17.

We add pretend play to our swinging sessions because it’s more fun and it motivates her. Monica warms up by swinging, then wants me to do evil character voices — and then Monica pushes the invisible person.

We do this for about 15 minutes, which can actually provide a person such as Monica with sensory needs up to six to eight hours of a positive experience in her day.

Let me break down how swinging and pushing “evil” brings joy to Monica’s day.

First, swinging back and forth is soothing, relaxing, calming, and our body being off the ground creates awareness so we can feel our entire body is there — which is important for peace of mind.

The rhythm of swinging makes Monica happy, and she sometimes tilts her head back to get more oxygen, blood flow to the brain, which helps Monica to focus and be in the moment.

Next, pushing evil on the swing is a heavy work exercise for Monica’s sensory needs to organize her brain, body, to work together like best friends. Monica grabs the swing, getting the touch sensation she needs to feel her hands. Pulling the swing up, then squatting down to push the swing, makes her use both upper and lower body muscles, and her joints get in on the action too.

Monica talking in a conversation with the characters is actually how our bodies are supposed to naturally work together — by moving and talking at the same time — giving my daughter a bonus of extra conversations.

Gary Martinez, Jr., a single father to Cristian and Monica, is a fitness trainer who helps autism families with demanding schedules stay in shape. He’s author of “Don’t Shame Her Game, Let Me Explain!” in which he shares stories about Monica. He’s also author of “Living Life Through Their Eyes, Our Journey Together On The Autism Spectrum.” Both are available on Amazon.

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Sep 29, 2023

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