Danimira Ivanova, an occupational therapist at Waltopia, talks about working with children with autism and various developmental disorders in the climbing halls of Waltopia. Climb Academy, Walltopia Climbing Center and the “Autism Today” association. Learn more about the progress that children achieve thanks to the therapeutic method and the sport of climbing.
1. Tell us more about yourself
2. When and how did you discover climbing as a therapeutic tool?
3. What is Occupational Therapy?
4. How does a training session in the gym go?
My favorite question so far, which I can answer in one word – crazy. The training of children with special needs includes adapting to the individual needs of the child and using his potential to achieve specific goals related to his motor and cognitive development.
We first start with a few “learning sessions” for both me and the child, where I assess his abilities and interests, and this most often happens in Climb Academy – our children’s climbing hall. Against them we start the training sessions as gradually, with many guidelines and demonstrations, we manage to cope with the challenges and new skills.
Together we overcome the sometimes negative emotions caused by the simultaneous receipt of new sensory stimuli and requirements from the environment. By perceiving them, we spontaneously generate an adaptive response and response to these stimuli. Every quality we develop through games and of course small rewards in the form of “rewards” for success.
5. What are the benefits of occupational therapy for children with autism?
Here is the question I do not know where to start. I want to say simply – countless. But let’s start with global motility – the development of the muscles of the whole body, coordination of movements, motor planning, balance, balance and bilateral coordination, or simply the work of both halves of the body to work in sync, which is a common problem in children with autism.
This, of course, makes it easier laterfine motor skills – training of various power and precise grips, which helps the further handling of objects in the school environment, for example. Improving hand-foot-eye coordination, which plays a significant role in the daily activities of all of us – thus the child learns to navigate the environment, develops its spatial orientation and achieves certain goals from which he feels satisfied.
Sensory disorders (tactile, visual, auditory) are often observed, which we also deal with through gradual adaptation. ‘Cognitive development is an integral part of the whole process of climbing training session – pointing out colors, objects, vocalizing non-verbal children, making decisions and dealing with problems. Along with all these benefits, we improve and perhaps most importantly – their social integration and interaction with peers in a universal workout in the form of a game.
6. Tell us what progress you are making with your students in the hall?
In the feedback with the parents after each training session, I share how it went, what we worked on and how their child is doing so far. We achieve the best results when the child independently and through small directions directs his actions, while his environment is unobtrusively directed.
The family is always part of the whole therapeutic process and by maintaining constant communication we manage to get the best out of it. Every child is at a different stage of development and needs different therapeutic methods to maximize their potential.
In our joint work with the parents we take small steps towards achieving the individual goals that the child is faced with.