The latest update for this article is written by Lindsay Podolak.
Do you feel like your little one is not reaching expected milestones, or have concerns about his or her development? If so, your child’s pediatrician may recommend programs such as Early Intervention, which provides support for children under three. Via Early Intervention, babies and toddlers learn skills that generally develop during the first three years of life. This includes physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional and self-help skills.
In most cases, many hold therapy sessions for children either at sensory gyms or at home, or both. Sensory gyms offer specialized play equipment. Options such as modified swings, scooters, rock- climbing walls, and toddler-sized treadmills provide a variety of treatment activities. Here, pediatric therapists work with your child through play to improve and enhance their fundamental skills. In this article, we’re highlighting nine sensory gyms and their best qualities.
Location: 79 Route 520, Suite 101, Morganville
“What makes Morganville’s Sensory Playground so unique are our snoezelen rooms, offering children with autism, ADHD, or developmental disabilities a true sensory experience,” says owner Lori Grossi, OTR/L, SIPT. “Additionally, these rooms are used as an effective treatment for children with tactile issues with clothing, shoes, foods, to desensitize them to tolerate the ‘real’ world without great difficulty that some of these children have.” Adds Grossi: “Children with autism often leave with a better organized brain, and can facilitate connection with the outside world.”
The snoezelen room consists of a solar effects projector, a multi-colored light up ball pit, interactive sensory panels, music projectors, sound/auditory simulators and giant bubble tubes. Of course, the child is in control of all of it. The 4,200 square foot facility not only has occupational, physical and speech therapy, but also offers art and music therapy, along with behavioral therapy.
Good to Know: This facility accepts all major insurance plans for New Jersey and New York.
Why I like it: A spacious, comfortable waiting room means parents and siblings have somewhere to relax during therapy time.
More info: www.sensoryplaygroundtherapy.com or call 732-972-8900
Location: 748 Morris Turnpike, Suite 205, Short Hills
Sensational Therapies provides a wide range of services to address sensory processing, motor coordination and fine motor/skills development. They offer one-on-one sessions, as well as small group classes, for handwriting. There are also “Pop Up” gross motor classes throughout the year. Their state-of-the-art sensory gym comes complete with specialized swings and balance equipment, as well as fine motor, gross motor and sensory areas. They specialize in Autism Spectrum Disorders, sensory processing disorders, sensory/behavior issues, ADHD, developmental delays, speech and language delays, neuromuscular conditions and learning disabilities as well as genetic disorders.
Good to Know: Sensational Therapies is part of Kids Under One Roof. This is a pediatric learning and therapy center specializing in evaluations and therapy for the preschool and school-age child. In addition to occupational therapy, the team offers Speech and Language therapy, Behavioral Strategies, Cognitive & Educational testing and tutoring, and both Psychiatric and Psychological Services.
Why I like it: This is truly a full-service facility. It even offers programs like bicycle training and handwriting without tears.
More info: www.sensationaltherapies.com or call 973-376-0055
Sensory Kids & Social Minds
Location: 158 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
“We are working very intensely at integrating all motor planning areas (timing of motor responses, sequencing, shifting quickly our visual attention, making decisions and organizing) and the social emotional development,” says Director Sonia Zayas, OTR/L. “Additionally, we coach parents in facilitating interpretative skills/thought process in their children. We work at integrating speech cognition with all the areas of development.” Zayas adds: “We have an early intervention drop off 6 days a week. We also have ongoing social skill groups for all levels/ ages, as well as handwriting groups.”
The facility’s speech/occupational and physical therapists work together to achieve children’s participation in community. ¿Hablas español? The center also has a few bilingual therapists on staff. Sensory Gyms & Social Minds hosts two gyms within its sensory gym. There’s a baby gym especially for the younger set as well as a big kid gym. The latter boasts a rock-climbing wall, monkey bars, zip line, ball pit and castle slide.
Good to Know: Intensive programs are also offered during the summer months. They design three-hour sessions to work therapeutically on social thinking, motor planning, sensory processing and social awareness. Staffers will focus on exposing children to a great variety of experiences. This includes cooking, playing sports and age-appropriate games, arts and crafts, music therapy and more.
Why I like it: They tailor treatment programs to your child’s specific needs. Goals include learning to relate, to express love for others and to ascend the developmental ladder.
More info: www.sensorykidsandsocialminds.com or 201-324-1700
Jason’s Sensory Gym
Location: 1183 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck
Jason Bernath, MS, OTR/L, facilitates Jason’s Sensory Gym, a pediatric occupational therapy center located in Teaneck. He is a New Jersey licensed and school-certified occupational therapist with 20 years of experience. Bernath evaluates and treats a wide spectrum of learning disabilities and diagnoses. This is including but not limited to sensory integration issues, fine and gross motor skill development, motor planning, balance, coordination, auditory processing and handwriting issues. Bernath successfully addresses classroom skills such as attention, organization and problem solving, along with helping children to be independent in the various activities of daily living.
“I develop a parent-friendly therapeutic home program designed to meet the child’s unique needs, which is updated after each treatment session,” says Bernath, who approximates that 50 to 75 percent of his young clients are on the autism spectrum. He is also a certified practitioner in various treatment programs, including Interactive Metronome and Integrated Listening Systems.
Good to know: “I work in the various school districts with a significant autistic population,” adds Bernath. “I am constantly giving sensory diets (a specialized regiment of various sensory-based activities that help facilitate a child’s sensory needs in order to regulate their body to focus or attend to a task throughout the day) and sensory-based activities to the teachers in these classrooms, along with sensory integrative in-services to classroom teachers and the whole special services departments.”
Why I like it: This gym has a strict one child/one therapist at a time rule to best help the child have a productive and successful treatment session without distractions.
More info: www.jasonssensorygym.com or call 201-833-4587
Shore Kids Pediatric Therapies
Location: 14 Bridgewaters Drive, Oceanport
Co-owned by Jaime Lehrhoff, M.A., LDT-C and Tracy Garguilo, MS, OTR/L, this 3,000 square foot facility offers comprehensive, integrated, multidisciplinary evaluations and treatment services for children ranging from special needs and learning disabilities to children with autism and developmental disabilities. All therapy is provided in a child-friendly, play-based environment. The state-of-the art sensory gym includes a rock wall, suspended equipment, scooter ramp, zip line and more.
“Children get the ultimate sensory experience in their warm and fun beach-themed gym,” says Lehrhoff. “All therapy is provided in a one-on-one setting or in small groups based on each child’s needs. Each therapist works closely with their families and believes in the importance of educating the family on how to incorporate sensory experiences into the child’s life on a daily basis.” Therapy is also offered in local schools, as well as the home, when appropriate.
Good To Know: Shore Kids provides many services in addition to occupational therapy. Staff members include speech and language therapists, learning consultants, physical therapists and behaviorists, along with a staff social worker.
Why I like it: While engaging physically, kids are also learning skills like frustration tolerance, feelings identification and task concentration and completion.
More info: www.shorekidspediatrictherapies.com or call 732-460-1500
Location: 4437 Route 27, Kingston
“This facility has been developed to supplement individual therapies that a child is currently receiving, as well as maintain and fine-tune skills that a child has already established,” says occupational therapist Lauren Jaffe. Jaffe has 15 years of experience in this field and designs all the classes, which are offered in a small, group format. They are intended to improve the following skills: Sensory Processing, Language and Social Skills, Hypotonia, Praxis (Motorplanning), Attention and Processing, Fine and Gross Motor Skills, Bilateral Integration, Mid-Line Crossing, Self-Regulation and Behavior.
FunSense does not require prescriptions to attend, as they don’t consider themselves a direct therapy service. At FunSense, an occupational and/or speech therapist is present at all times. One-on-one occupational and speech therapy is also available to children who require individualized attention. Meanwhile, they train staff members to manage all types of behaviors and be comfortable with children of all ages. Additionally, FunSense’s gym features all new therapeutic equipment. They’ve got traditional swings, scooters, monkey bars and a ball pit to the latest X-Box and iPad technologies.
Good to know: The programs are designed so parents can drop off their children or relax in the waiting room. They offer parent education workshops on a regular basis that are free for members of the gym.
Why I like it: Members also get the opportunity to enjoy open gym hours. Here, kids can get a little extra time with the sensory equipment, with or without parental involvement.
More info: www.funsensegym.com or call 609-955-1440
Pediatric Occupational Therapy Services
Location: 1415 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck
“Our mission is to provide evaluation, treatment and consultation services for infants, children and their families in a warm, supportive environment to help each and every child meet his or her potential,” explains Director Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, DSP, OTR/L. “Our state-of-the-art facility is designed to entice your child to move, play and grow.” POTS has three sensory gyms, for therapists to work with children one-on-one or in a group, depending on the needs of each child.
There are more than 10 occupational therapists on staff, many with over 15 years of experience. “Many are SIPT certified—the gold-standard test for sensory integration and praxis testing—and most have training in Floortime,” says Warburg. “Our treatment philosophy for children on the autistic spectrum, and for many children, can be described as Sensory Integration/Floortime. The Floortime approach involves meeting a child at his/her current developmental level, and building upon his unique strengths to foster social, emotional and cognitive development.”
Good to know: Other treatment techniques that children on the autistic spectrum can benefit from are Therapeutic Listening and Yoga for Kids. “Also, in the summer, many of our clients benefit from Aqua OT in our outdoor pool,” says Dr. Warburg, adding, “We are one of the few practices that offers MEDEK for children with gross motor delays.”
Why I like it: A ball pit, zip lines, climbing walls, spider webs and more make this facility a hit with kids. They won’t even realize they are having therapy!
More info: www.potsot.com or call 201-837-9993
Kids’ Therapy Place
Location: 100 East Main Street, Bogota
Kids’ Therapy Place believes “everyone deserves a childhood, no matter how challenging life may be,” as they say. With that in mind, they designed a 2,500 square foot facility for children with disabilities as well as special needs. Its purpose is for kids to hone fine and gross motor skills, sensory issues and social skills while having fun. The Messy Room features activities like painting and shaving cream as well as kinetic sand. The Small Sensory Gym also has a swing, a tent with a rice box inside and a challenging play structure. Meanwhile, the Main Sensory Gym has the bigger equipment like a ball pit, an obstacle course and more.
Good to know: Therapist from Kids’ Therapy Place are happy to work with your child’s school. They’re available to observe in the classroom or attend meetings.
Why I like it: All sessions have an open-door policy for parents to observe and participate. This enables the parent/therapist connection to stay strong.
More info: www.kidstplace.com or call 201-525-0050