Inflatable bounce house centers are everywhere nowadays, so it’s no secret that children love them. But some centers are looking to do much more than provide a fun experience.
Pump It Up in Santa Clara is now offering Sensory Bounce Therapy, an occupational therapy program for children with special needs, but with a fun twist — inflatables are incorporated into it.
The program was designed in 2013 by Miriam Skydell, a pediatric occupational therapist. For the past 30 years, she has run her own private practice in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. At her practice’s sensory gym group, she uses slides, swings and rock climbing walls. But one day, Skydell decided the best sensory base for children was inflatables.
“It’s more of a way for these kids to enjoy the equipment when they wouldn’t be able to and also learn life skills and gain social skills from occupational therapy, so it’s a little bit of everything,” said Jordan Skydell, Director of Operations and Miriam’s son.
The program first launched at Bounce U in Paramus, New Jersey, and is now running in 15 locations across the U.S. Jordan Skydell said they’re hoping to expand to more locations in California, Maryland and Minnesota.
Sensory Bounce Therapy rents out the entire bounce facility for an hour-long session each week — Thursday from 5-6 p.m. at Pump It Up — and brings in an experienced therapist to work with the children. Each session is limited to 10 children, as big groups can sometimes be overwhelming for them.
The program works on building children’s sensory, motor and social skills, such as balance, core strength, coordination, team-building and sportsmanship.
“We have some kids that didn’t even want to leave mom’s hip when they first came in, and now they’re crawling up on their own, onto the obstacles,” said Amberlynn Slavin, the occupational therapist at Pump It Up. “It’s just really kind of heartwarming to see that these kids are becoming more independent, but it’s also great to see the kids growing.”
While the children are in therapy, a parent support group is held in another room.
“As a resource center, a lot of parents like to connect with others as a way for them to bounce ideas off each other, which is nice because parents are waiting during that hour anyway,” explained Jordan Skydell. “So why not have something for them to benefit from?”
Alicia Morales, the parent support group leader, has been taking her 2-year-old daughter, Alicia, to the therapy sessions at Pump It Up since the facility began offering them in April. She said she thinks the group is a great way to offer support and advice to each other.
“I’m just a parent — I don’t have any degrees or anything in therapy,” Morales said. “All we do is sit and talk about our day. We talk about our kids, like if someone’s having a hard day. So we’re kind of just there for each other, we’re there to share each other’s stories.”
Meanwhile, Morales has noticed significant improvement in her daughter’s skills. When she first enrolled Alicia in the program, her daughter only wanted to be held by the therapist.
But two weeks ago, Morales threw a birthday party for her other daughter at Pump It Up. She noticed that Alicia climbed up into one of the bounce houses, stood up by herself and maintained her balance while other kids were jumping around — something she would’ve never been able to do before.
“I’m excited because the program is really working for her and she used to cry when we would come in,” Morales said. “She didn’t want to do it, and right now, just today, I said, ‘Okay, we’re going to Sensory Bounce,’ and she smiled. She’s non-verbal too, so her expressions really tell what she’s thinking. And she smiled, and so I thought, ‘This is great.’ She recognizes it and she’s having fun.”
For more information on Sensory Bounce Therapy, visit www.sensorybounce.com.