Rock Climbing in a Therapy Clinic

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Rock Climbing in a Therapy Clinic

As pediatric occupational therapists, we help children develop the skills necessary for the job of living through play. We often joke with family and friends that we are “professional players”, as the sessions with patients may look like we are just playing with them. However, these play sessions have a hidden purpose. During our sessions, we frequently utilize the rock climbing wall with holds from Everlast Climbing. Here are some of the skills we work to improve: 

  • Fine motor development: dexterity, strength, grasp, and range of motion of the hands 
  • Bilateral coordination: the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time. This impacts activities such as cutting while stabilizing the paper, manipulating clothing fasteners, and opening a container.
  • Motor planning abilities: the ability to plan and sequence appropriate movements to meet the demands of a novel task. To achieve this, the brain relies on the sensory system and body awareness.
  • Core muscle strength: the development of the torso muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body. Decreased core strength can cause poor posture impacting fine motor skill development.
  • Upper extremity use (range of motion, strength, and coordination): underlying skills necessary for most childhood occupations such as self-feeding, getting dressed, catching a ball, and handwriting.
  • Visual motor Skills: the interplay between visual skills, visual perceptual skills and motor skills such as coloring, cutting, and writing.
  • Visual perceptual skills: processing and interpreting meaning from the visual information that we gain through our eyesight. Visual perception plays an important role in handwriting, mathematics, and reading.
  • Sensory processing abilities: how a child processes what they see, hear, feel, taste, etc. and appropriately responds.
  • Executive functioning: skills such as organization, sequencing, initiation, and attention.
  • Self-esteem: confidence in one’s abilities to succeed 

In a session, we may plan an activity using the climbing wall and a just right challenge for a child. A just right challenge is important in order to empower the child to show them that they are able to improve and have success. The holds from the Everlast Wall are critical in this plan. In our clinic, many of the children specifically enjoy using the loop holds with the ring attachment. 

            Nicole, Occupational Therapist at Cheshire Fitness Zone, wrote a thesis during her time in graduate school, titled “The Effects of an Indoor Rock Climbing Program for High School Aged Students with Developmental Disabilities”. She found these common themes when she interviewed the students from the indoor rock climbing program which included: 

  • Confidence
  • New learning 
  • Generalizations to other goals/activities 
  • Applications of job skills 
  • Self- advocate 
  • Socialization 
  • Trust
  • Enjoyment and improved mental well-being 

To read more about her thesis and findings please visit this site.

Frequently, she recommends indoor rock climbing to families she works with because she believes in its benefits and she has the research to back it up! If you feel like your child may benefit from occupational therapy please fill out the form below. Climb on!

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