Advanced Pediatric Therapies


Martial Arts helps Woman with Autism

This story of a mom in her thirties who has autism is a truly incredible read! Jen Malia wasn’t diagnosed until after she began martial arts training, but found Tae Kwon Do to be a gift to her .  This martial art, in Korean, “the way of the fist” uses punches and kicks as well as traditional forms and movement patterns.  It is competitive in nature and involves also dancing around on the balls of your feet.

woman punching red heavy bag

Photo by Pixabay on

Jen struggled with identifiable problems of autism including balance, coordination, focus, depth perception, executive functioning (got a PhD but had a difficult time prioritizing), social anxiety, obsessive interests, repetitive routines, sensory issues and anxiety.

She says that long distance running along with the practice of tae kwon do helped her with all of these issues.  She spent 5 years earning a black belt and now teaches tae kwon do to kids.  She feels that the combination of these two sports calmed her mind and disrupted “chaotic thoughts.”  She also feels the Asian tradition of repetitive movements and concentrated performance (mindfulness) helped her to learn to make better decisions, focus her attention and organize information.

Any OT can tell you that heavy work will help with all of the above but the article really reinforces how essential these practices were to help her in her journey.  She also received counseling, but credits the martial arts the most with helping her learn new skills.  A great lesson in the importance of using your heavy work and mindful practices to not only help with balance and coordination but also training attention.  Pretty cool!

Leave a comment »

Fun Heavy Work: Play Wrestling!

Play wrestling is awesome!

Play wrestling is awesome!

Traditionally, dad’s are the more physically playful of the two parents a child has at home.  However, some kids are raised only by mom, and others have dads who work frequently or are not as physical as their kids.  Enter play wrestling:  a great non-threatening way to get your child some serious heavy work.

When your child comes home from school, are they cranky, irritable or going a hundred miles a minute?  It may be because they have had to sit most of the day and are fidgety from the lack of the most grounding of sensory inputs:  proprioception (heavy work).  Maybe you are tired too, and you want the kids to do something where they don’t hurt each other.

Here’s how to set up play wrestling:

*place some pillows and cushions in a big circle (better yet, have your kids do it)

*get a bell to signal start of play

*review the rules:  back to back or side to side until one person falls over, when a person is down the wrestling is over, “stop” said by any player means stop, have fun!

*if one child is taller than another, the taller one can try going on their knees

Play wrestling is a fun way to have fun and even establish trust if everyone respects each other and the rules.  It’s a super way to transition between school and homework (especially if you follow it with a piece of gum and maybe a drink through a straw).  Give it a try, you may find yourself jumping in!

Benjamin wins the wrestling title!

Benjamin wins the wrestling title!

Leave a comment »

Our new climbing wall in Vancouver!!

Heavy work was never so much fun.

Welcome to the Vancouver APT’s very own climbing wall!  We are encouraging kids, therapists and families to get vertical with our newly installed climbing wall.  As many of you already know, our therapy relies heavily on the value of heavy work to build muscles, improve concentration, calm a nervous system and prepare for more focused work.

What is “heavy work” anyway?  It is the resistive input through our muscles and joints which makes us aware of where our body is in space.   Heavy work gives our proprioceptive sense information about our position in space.  Some kids have difficulty interpreting proprioception and so may seek excessive forms of it.  They crash, jump, move and shake in an attempt to gain more information about the interaction between their bodies and the world around them.  This can show itself in kids who have problems grading movements. A child may appear clumsy or uncoordinated and break things often. They may often run into you to the point of driving you crazy!  Lack of sufficient heavy work can lead to difficulty sleeping, paying attention and being able to calm down when upset.

Some heavy work activities include:

Carrying a heavy backpack or wearing a weighted vest

Pushing a full laundry basket

Lifting and pouring buckets of water

Giving a sibling a piggy-back ride

Shoveling dirt or snow

Pushing a vacuum cleaner

The list really is endless, the creativity is up to you.  For more information on the type and duration of heavy work, best when used within a comprehensive sensory diet, please talk to your therapist.

Until then, visit our climbing wall.  We don’t allow kids unsupervised on the wall, and some families are surprised at yet another obstacle to the restroom, but we are happy to provide another fun movement experience for the kids at APT.

The climbing wall is designed to provide a safe, fun and challenging anti-gravity activity.

Safety first!

If anyone at home has an extra bell lying around, we have had a request from a few kids to place one at the top for motivation.  Thanks and have a great week.

Leave a comment »