What the Platform Swing teaches me about the Adaptive Response

Mary Read from Take Part Occupational Therapy Ltd offers some handy learning tips for therapists becoming familiar with Sensory Integration Theory. She combines this with a piece of Southpaw equipment to help meet your clients’ needs.

Platform Swing

That’s just a swing, isn’t it?

Alice (that’s not her real name) has Asperger syndrome. She struggles to sit at her desk in the classroom. Her body position, muscle strength and tone are causing her some problems. Sometimes she holds her head at a strange angle. She looks poorly coordinated and lacks confidence. Since coming regularly to the therapy room, Alice has opened up- she laughs and comes up with good ideas of how to use the equipment. Her favourite is the platform swing.

Just Right Challenge

You know the “just right” challenge helps your client undertake movement or activity which stretches them a bit. It’s the goldilocks principle of not too little, not too much – just the right level of challenge! Jean Ayres founded the core principles of sensory integration theory. She explains that the neurological pathways underpinning our movements and other senses are most likely to develop when we take an active part in a new activity which is slightly harder than what we have done before.

Platform Swing

What is an adaptive response?

Alice’s assessments showed that she had deficits in processing information via her vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems. This explained her poor postural control and unusual head movements. Alice has difficulty understanding what her body is doing without looking. She is cautious about moving in a circular rotation.
Alice’s love of the platform swing gives her many opportunities to experience moving against gravity, using her whole body.
When Alice tries a new “just right” activity and successfully meets the demand that the equipment offers, she has made an adaptive response. She is putting her new skills to the test.

Moving it up!

How many ways can you use the platform swing?

5 ways to increase the challenge and promote the adaptive response

Level 1:  Passive/just holding on and staying put

  • Sitting or lying enclosed on the swing (this could be with support of an infant adaptation kit with a small child)
  • You could place an inflated tractor tyre on top of the platform for a larger person to feel more secure
  • You could wrap them in lycra ( e.g. using the stretch easy) or under a weighted blanket to increase input to deep touch receptors and muscle stretch receptors, both which may help calm the person

Level 2:   Alternate contracting and relaxing muscle groups

  • Could be just pushing the swing away while seated on the floor
  • Sitting and swinging in the old-fashioned way- pull ropes and bend and straighten legs in rhythm
  • Using additional equipment to add proprioceptive input e.g -flexion extension pulley system with a band of lycra tied round the frame offering muscle resistance

Level 3:  Initiates and sustains a complex new movement activity

  • Standing on the platform and holding on while being pushed in a straight line (linear swinging)
  • Use postural trunk muscles and alternating bilateral activity to rock the swing side to side independently

Level 4:  Initiate and sustain an activity with a static target

  • While swinging, throw squeezy toys at a static target

Level 5:  Initiate and sustain a staged complex activity involving moving in space and throwing or moving onto to a moving target

  • While swinging, throw soft sensory toys to a moving target
  • Use whole body to swing onto another moving surface to collect toys (e.g. from platform swing to suspended tyre)

Don’t forget

These are just ideas. You will need to adapt these ideas to suit your own situation.
Most importantly – Alice was having fun while she was learning. Keep the theory in your head while you share fun ideas with the person to make it playful. Watch out for those adaptive responses!

1 Comment
  1. Can you please tell me what the original source of the adaptive response levels was from? I have been searching my coursework and books as I know I read it somewhere years ago, but would like to revisit the information with several of my staff/ younger therapists I am mentoring. Thank you. Jackie Brown, DrOT, OTR/L