Kim (OT) and Ashleigh (OT) discuss using a rock wall during an occupational therapy session. Most people think that OT works only on things like handwriting and fine motor skills, what does a rock wall have to do with that?

Fine motor skills typically stem from core and abdominal muscles and our shoulder stability. So if they’re weak, they have a difficult time manipulating things with their fingers. So when we use a rock wall, basically we’re having the child coordinate their hands and legs together, we are planning exactly how to get those muscles to move, and adjusting the strength in our legs, core, and arms while we’re climbing up the wall.

So even though we’re not specifically adjusting fine motor skills, we’re adjusting the skills that allow us to use those fine motor skills.

What do you do if a child is scared and doesn’t want to climb? The biggest thing is to make sure the child trusts the OT. So sometimes we’ll demonstrate how to do the climb first, and if they’re still a little timid, I’ll let them lean on me while they climb up as I climb up with them, and slowly reduce the amount of contact I have with them.

Another thing I do is let them climb up just a couple of steps, or as high as they feel comfortable. It should be positive and motivating, so I’ll put a favorite toy at the top of the rock wall and have them climb up to get it.

How do you make it easier or harder for kids since everyone has different skill levels? Sometimes the kids only understand how to climb up, so I’ll let them climb up and instead of having them just slide down the rock wall, I’ll carry them down, or verbally tell them which foot or which color to step on, or just touch the foot so they know which one to move next. Lastly, they can use the rope instead of the rocks because rope is more challenging to the core and shoulder muscles. The kids really love this and have a great time in their session.