Now that children are settling into their weekly routines, including participating in extracurricular activities, let’s take a look at rock wall climbing and how this sport can serve as a great and fun way to promote physical activity for children, including those with physical disabilities in an adapted environment.
Rock wall climbing can be described as solving a puzzle on the wall, and is beneficial on so many levels. It’s a sport that fosters problem solving, sequencing, and fine/gross motor skills that can be translated into everyday functional activities. For example, as a child develops strength in their hands while participating in rock wall climbing, one may see an improvement with their ability to open jars/containers that they were previously unable to do.
Children and young adults diagnosed with physical disabilities are often limited in the types of recreational and sporting activities that they can participate in. It often depends on the level of impairment and the physical function of their upper and lower extremities. These children and young adults often have less exposure to what their typically developing peers have access to and have less recreational and social opportunities available.
Recreational rock wall climbing, a mainstream, popular sport, presents an interesting possibility for patients with physical disabilities. Not only is it important for typically developing children and young adults to promote physical health and well-being, but it is equally important for individuals with a physical disability to participate in physical activities and/or sports. This is needed to increase/maintain the current level of function post-operatively for those that had surgeries to increase range of motion (ROM), function, and strength. This is extremely important for children as they transition into adulthood and as the weekly therapy regimen (OT, PT) decreases. It is necessary to promote good habits for the future starting at a young age.
Children can benefit from rock wall climbing using both arms and legs for reciprocal movement. A recent study performed at HSS with a young adult who had performed indoor rock wall climbing over the course of 1 year, with the collaboration of an occupational therapist and an adaptive sport instructor, proved that over time wrist flexion/extension (bending and straightening) ROM and grip strength can improve. Rock wall climbing was an effective adjunct to standard occupational therapy practices as evidenced by increased wrist ROM, grip strength, and function. Rock wall climbing had improved the quality of life for this patient as well as been a fun activity to participate in.
Lorene Janowski is a pediatric occupational therapist at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center within Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion. She enjoys working with children and their families to help improve their quality of life and function, especially for children with cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorder. She specializes in aquatic therapy as an adjunct to land based therapy services.