Spina Bifida: Activities for Children with Spina Bifida

If your child has spina bifida, activities, games and therapy can form integral and complimentary components of your child’s treatment. Activities for children with spina bifida can also help to aid your special needs child’s physical and mental development. Read on for suggestions on activities and games for children with spina bifida, as well as information on spina bifida therapy and schooling information for kids with this condition.

Spina Bifida Activities and Games

Physical activity is an excellent way in which to aid the development of children with spina bifida. Activities for spina bifida children are important to building upper body muscle, which helps to improve balance and strength. This is key to helping your child to perform such day to day tasks as moving to or transferring from a wheelchair, and propelling a wheelchair or walking equipment.

Other activities that are beneficial for spina bifida children include:

  • swimming
  • crawling over a mat or pillow
  • crawling through ‘tunnels’ (i.e. through the legs of chairs or under a low table)
  • hitting a large ball with both hands
  • squeezing sponges at bath time
  • playing wheelbarrow

A child with spina bifida should engage in physical activity three to four times a week, for a period of twenty to thirty minutes per session. Of course, you should always speak to your child’s physician and physical therapist about the physical activity that best meets your child’s individual needs and capabilities.

In addition to physical activity, games can also help to encourage your child’s development, particularly their attention span and memory. Eye-hand activities, such as letting your child play with ‘take apart’ toys or play with a broken radio or clock, help to foster greater attention span, while playing with building blocks or letting your child thread objects on a string (such as popcorn, candy or beads) also helps to promote their coordination. You can also take your child on nature walks and encourage her to pay attention to sights and sounds (i.e. play “I spy…”) so as to foster greater awareness and attention. Always be sure to give short instructions or rules that can be completed by your child so that games are not overwhelming for him.

Spina Bifida Therapy

The type of therapy program that your special needs child requires depends on her age, health, medical history, as well as the extent of her spina bifida. Therapy for children with spina bifida typically includes physical therapy and speech therapy.

For infants, physical therapy begins as soon as possible following surgery. A physical therapist will teach parents how to exercise their baby’s legs and feet in order to prepare the child for walking with leg braces and crutches. Physical therapy in infants and children with spina bifida helps to reduce joint damage and helps a child to walk. Therapy may also include seeing a urologist, who can help minimize problems linked to incontinence in spina bifida children.

In addition, speech therapy is another integral form of spina bifida treatment. While the extent of speech therapy depends on your child’s individual condition, there are many activities you can try at home to encourage your child’s speech development. Here are some suggestions:

  • talk to your child in short phrases about things that your child can see and understand
  • use pictures, books and photographs to encourage conversation with your child
  • encourage your child to use more words in his discussion if sounds are not clear
  • avoid putting too much emphasis on speech problems so as not to make your child feel uncomfortable or self-conscious when speaking
  • allow your child to hear sounds being repeated in a natural fashion

Spina Bifida: Schooling Your Special Needs Child

Sending your child to a public school requires certain considerations, although this does not mean that this is a problematic decision. Firstly, the school should be wheelchair accessible. In addition, you should speak with the principal and potential teachers about an individualized program as well as the multi-sensory approach the school is able to take in your child’s education (i.e. using sand paper letters to teach the alphabet). Public schooling also provides excellent opportunities for social development.

Homeschooling your child may another option for children with spina bifida, depending on the extent of your child’s condition and may enable parents to ensure that their child is receiving the tailored curriculum and special instruction your child needs.

To talk to other moms of special needs children, click here.