TAAP – Treadmill for Students with Autism and Apraxia Protocol

It is not uncommon for apraxia to go hand in hand with autism. Of course not all children who have apraxia have autism and vice versa. It does make sense though, especially from a sensory and motor planning standpoint, that there are some commonalities in treatments that would benefit aspects of both.

In my previous post I touch on this a little bit in regards to occupational therapy. Through early intervention I learned about a local program here in Southeastern Connecticut developed by Debra Widmer-Reyes. It’s called “Treadmill for Students with Autism and Apraxia Protocol” or TAAP Project.  It’s conducted in the local schools here so I look forward to Henry trying this next year. I have heard great things from a few local parents about the benefits for apraxic children, including increased concentration during class time and improvement in gross motor planning.

Because we have noticed such a correlation between Henry’s speech and certain physical movements, along with his motor planning difficulties, this program is of particular interest to me. Let me share with you a little bit about it from the website:

“TAAP has powerful potential to provide an avenue for neurological development in the areas of gross, fine and visual motor skills.  In general, treadmill walking increases visual processing speed that lasts after the exercise is completed.  TAAP combines therapeutic gait development with visual spatial training to develop occulomotor visual skills that relate specifically to learning.
Walking and gross motor skill coordination is the end product of accurate visual spatial and focal vision development.  During the ages of 1 through 5 years old, children refine their visual and motor systems simultaneously.  The concurrent movement through space with visual guidance during walking and play leads to mature visual skills that prepare children for learning.

Children who present with atypical walking and delayed gross motor patterns struggle in the classroom with sitting still, visually attending, independent work productivity, transitions and endurance throughout the school day.  Children with Autism and Apraxia have focused deficits of language and social communication, emotional regulation and ability to transition from activities.  Their relative strengths in the visual and motor systems can be targeted for refinement, then utilized to support deficit training.  TAAP walking patterns occur at a fitness training level of each child so that sitting posture, walking, running and endurance increase.  As physical skills increase, pre-reading visual skills of fixation, saccades, tracking, attention and memory are promoted.  Improved visual gross motor skills allow an automaticity of early learning behaviors that are essential for independence on the classroom.”

Debra’s methods are being shared through training seminars across the country.  It makes this kind of therapy available to schools outside the Connecticut area.  While not everyone may have access to this, I thought it was interesting  to learn the benefits of this kind of therapy on apraxia children in particular. I appreciate therapists and doctors who think outside the box, and it just proves that speech therapy and occupational therapy aren’t our only choices. We can bring ideas like this into our schools, and in a modified way, into our homes.

For more information, please check out her website at:

http://www.taap-project.com/

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