Dog Days of Summer

Posted on July 27th, 2012 by Denise | No Comments

Dog Days of Summer


Denise Koonce OTR

The summers in Houston can be brutal.  The internal temperature of a parked car can reach above 120 degrees and some say “you can even cook an egg on the sidewalk”.  Individuals run from one air conditioned area to another.  Home health therapists are a great example of someone who will do this several times throughout the day.  The in and out is inherent in their day to day work while seeing patients in their homes. Therefore summers can be exhausting because you are going back and forth several times throughout the day from a cool environment to a hot environment.  During these hottest weeks of summer it is important to stay hydrated and cool.  This is when thinking outside the box comes in handy.

I know a physical therapist that is very creative during the summer months with his pediatric patients.   He would come up with wonderful treatment activities for our hot summers.  One of my favorite activities he created was an activity that was not only highly motivating for his patients but also provided him with a cool break.   Towards the end of his session, for the patients that were working on gait, he would have them walk to a cooler, squat down, reach in maintaining balance and retrieve the reward “a water balloon!”  He would have them throw it at a designated target and walk back to do it all over again.  This activity could be repeated as many times as necessary to achieve that session’s goal and the child was highly motivated to participate.  In addition, at the end of the session, the last water balloon was then thrown at him.

Water guns can also be used very creatively in a treatment session.  They require eye hand coordination, digital control, digital strength, upper extremity strength, and bilateral control if the gun has a pump or is larger than a pistol.  They can shoot at balloons, flat targets, empty water bottles, or perhaps a sibling.  The water gun activity can be used purely as an upper extremity and fine motor activity if you are working on the developmental areas above or it can be incorporated into the overall session.  For example, the child can be sitting on a therapy ball maintaining upright posture while shooting at targets in a diagonal pattern using rotation.   Wahooooooooo!!

For an oral sensory-motor exercise, use popsicles whether purchased or homemade.  You can have the child help you make them in one session and then eat them in the next session.  Popsicles are a great motivator and a wonderful sensory-motor tool.  The cold popsicle alone assists in oral and lip control.  If you then add salt, spice, or sour flavors you create another layer of intense sensory experiences.

Another great summer option is aquatic therapy.   The water is a wonderful treatment tool across disciplines and diagnosis.  You may need to be creative in finding a pool in the neighborhood, at a local YMCA (if the patient is a member), or perhaps the patient or a patient’s family member may have a pool.  The hot temperatures offered by a Houston summer will heat up most small pools and will provide close to a natural therapeutic temperature.  It doesn’t reach the same degree as an indoor therapeutic pool but close enough to benefit a patient in an aquatic setting.  Aquatic therapy can be a tremendous addition to any land based therapy and is an enormous motivator for a child.

Don’t let the “Dog Days of Summer” bog down your treatment sessions.  Be creative, think outside the box, and have some water fun.  Let us know some of your creative ideas you use during the summer months.



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