As a therapist who travels from schools to homes to a clinic over a day, ingenuity is key. The act of lugging around therapy equipment in my bag leads to neck and shoulder strain and awkward and apologetic maneuvers through the subway crowds. Beyond the hassle of carrying a large load, therapy equipment can be very expensive and is not always covered under insurance. In cases when they are, a client may have to wait weeks to months to actually receive it, at which point the product may not be exactly what they need at their moment of the recovery process.
I’ve compiled a list of just a few tried and true pieces of therapy equipment made from easily acquired items, some of which you may already have lying around.
If your client is working on producing legible handwriting, or if they slouch at their desk and lean directly over their work, a 3-ring binder may be your answer. A binder can be turned on its side and used as a slant board, which is often retailed in therapy equipment supply stores for $30-$50.
Used Bottles and Jars
Got empty bottles lying around in your recycling bin? Bottles with a narrow lid can be used to challenge your client to drop in small beads, pellets or coins. This is good for in-hand manipulation, for either adults or children. Remember to make it functional! For example, you can make a game out of it and tell a child they are “feeding” a pet and you can decorate the bottle like an animal.
Don’t skip this one thinking you don’t have a bike you want to cut up! Go to any bicycle repair shop and ask them for any inner tubings they don’t want. Bring them home and rinse them, cut off the nozzle and cut the tubings into strips about 2-3 feet thick. These can be used as exercise bands and ropes for pulling, as the rubber provides a lot of resistance. Also, they can be tied to the bottom of chairs or desk legs and used as a “foot fidget”, promoting attention in classrooms. In my experience, the shop told me they had 2-3 at the end of a day and told me they would have double that on a day later that week!
I use masking tape about 50 different ways in a week. Sometimes I tape out different lines or large shapes on the floor and make an obstacle course out of it, which can address motor planning, body awareness and much more. One of my favorite uses is creating a vertical surface out of just about any writing or coloring project. I tape any paper we may be working on to a wall (coloring page, placing stickers on construction paper, writing letters) just below my client’s eye level. This works on proximal and shoulder strengthening, which in turn can help strengthen the forearm and muscles of the hand, etc. For adult clients, you can make it a little more age appropriate and instead tape up recipes or a greeting card.
These are just a few versatile items you can use to plan for new activities with you clients. Sometimes they are helpful to have on hand when you’re in a pinch, and other times you find they work as well as any catalog item and are a bit more sustainable. What common items do you repurpose for therapy? Share in the comments below!