After how did you break your arm? The second most popular question is uttered with eyebrows lifted, corner of the mouth raised, as though I'd said I was vacuuming the lawn: Why were you sweeping off the trampoline?
When Super Daddy and his sisters were small they climbed trees, built snow forts and mud castles, slid down snowy hills on box-sleds. They swam in buggy, muddy lakes, body surfed ocean reefs, fished. They jumped off the backyard deck, danced (nearly) naked in the rain, twirled, skipped, cartwheeled; competed for the highest spot on the jungle gym.
They stood, sat, jumped, twirled. Saw, heard, touched, tasted, smelled. Built an appetite for dinner, wore themselves out for bedtime.
And exercised their tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems while integrating their senses.
They thought they were just having fun.
Sensory Integration (SI) refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses:
Tactile System – how nerves under the skin's surface communicate information to the brain. Those with underdeveloped systems may display hypersensitivity to touch, textured foods and clothing, dislike getting hands dirty;
Vestibular System - structures within the inner ear that detect movement such as changes in head position. Those with underdeveloped systems may display clumsiness, fearful reactions to motion activities like climbing stairs; excessive need to spin or jump;
Proprioceptive System - subconscious awareness of body position using muscles, joints, and tendons. Those with underdeveloped systems may display tendency to fall, clumsiness, poor fine motor skills, sloppy eating.
Of course, kids don't play like they used to. Sensory systems are sometimes neglected in the formative years. And all kids with underdeveloped sensory systems don't have autism. This post isn't about them.
In autism behaviors like repetitive hand flapping, or rocking, humming, twirling help kids with underdeveloped sensory systems cope with life in a fast, bright, touchy, noisy world.
Wonder Boy covers his eyes to view light and movement from the side. He watches wheeled toys roll on a flat surface. Water immersion soothes him.
Amaze Girl has challenges with balance and coordination.
Both children love to jump.
Bouncing on a trampoline rouses sensory, tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems, works minds and feeds brains while improving kinesthetic awareness and core strength. Nerves are stimulated, heads move in coordination with muscles, joints and tendons. Jumping on a trampoline defines where bodies exist in space, lights neurons.
And it's fun!
There's a scene in the movie Snow Cake in which Sigourney Weaver's character, an adult woman with autism, begs Alan Rickman's character to jump on the trampoline with her. Weaver flattens herself on the vibrating mesh, back down, arms and legs splayed. She squeals:
"…bounce me up! Bounce me! Please, please, please? I'll stay out here all day."
Jumping is a haven of sensory fulfillment; where equilibrium, coordination and tactile satisfaction meet.
Is it worth a broken arm to assure the trampoline is prepped and ready to provide all that to two of the best darlings ever?