As most parents who have children on the Autism spectrum can tell you, if there’s one thing that has been tried and tested at home and at therapy, it would be therapy tools. While there are many that are useful, one stands out as a strong favorite among parents and occupational therapists alike, and that is TheraPutty® therapy putty. TheraPutty® is a silicone-based putty available in six different resistance levels – XX-Soft through X-Firm – color coded according to how soft or firm the putty is. Made from a silicone polymer, TheraPutty® is gluten, Latex, nuts, egg and soy free. TheraPutty® is safe for home-environments as it is nontoxic, clean, non-oily and doesn’t stain. Additionally, the putty will not leave residue or a smell on patient hands, it doesn’t separate, harden or dry out. Lastly, it will not stick to skin, furniture or clothing.
The benefits of introducing and using TheraPutty® with an Autistic child are many. Children with Autism often have trouble with fine motor skills, hand strength, coordination and spatial awareness. The uniqueness of the material as well as the variety of progressive resistance levels that TheraPutty® offers makes it an effective tool to practice fine motor skills as well as gain strength. TheraPutty® can be squeezed, stretched, twisted or pinched, exercises that strengthen the muscles of fingers, hands and forearms, letting children develop skills while having fun at the same time. In addition to fine motor skills, TheraPutty® has also been proven effective in sensory integration therapy and improving daily functions in children with Autism. Sensory integration therapy uses play activities to change how the brain reacts to touch, sound, sight and movement. Therapy Putty such as TheraPutty® is often an integral aspect of sensory integration therapy. In a recent study¹, one group of Autistic children received “usual care” while a second group received that care plus three hours per week of sensory integration therapy featuring TheraPutty®. Results showed that the children in the sensory integration group scored significantly higher on attaining goals and required less assistance from their parents in self-care and social situations. Children with Autism also have difficulty processing information and to them, ordinary situations can feel overwhelming. TheraPutty® though, is an excellent “hand fidget” – a toy/tool that helps with focus, attention and calming. Hand fidgets help manage anxiety, increase attention, improve the ability to focus and even aid children in calming down when dealing with a surge of emotions such as extreme anger or frustration. Children on the Autism spectrum can benefit from fidgeting, especially when using items which provide heavy work or tactile sensory input to the hands.
As there are so many wonderful ways TheraPutty® can be used to benefit an Autistic child, activities should be done in coordination and partnership with your child’s therapist or doctor. TheraPutty®’s six visually distinct colors reflect established standards in resistive exercise and allow you to choose the most appropriate softness or firmness level for your child. Squeezing, pulling, rolling and squishing the putty helps manage anxiety and is terrific for calming. Manipulating putty is also a great way to help a child focus or maintain attention. One fun activity that improves fine motor skills and hand strength is to hide small items such as beads, keys, coins or toys inside the putty and ask your child to dig through to find and pull them out. This simple goal-oriented task improves focus and gives a fantastic workout to the hands. In addition to those noted here, your therapist has a ton of other TheraPutty® ideas, exercises and activities to benefit your child as well.
TheraPutty® is inexpensive, portable and mess free. Your child will tell you it’s also a lot of fun to work and play with. TheraPutty® comes in its own plastic container for easy storage. To learn more and to view the entire TheraPutty® product line, click HERE.
Written by Mark Berger