For those of you who don’t know, Master Hammer has high-functioning Autism, ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) and ADHD.
It took some time for Mr Hammer and myself to accept this, and then to have him properly diagnosed. The diagnosis doesn’t change who he is, a spectacular, affectionate, high-energy kid with a wicked sense of humour.
What the diagnosis did, was open avenues for support and resources for us to help him in his everyday life.
While we were in the midst of getting his diagnosis, a child psychologist suggested to us that he would benefit greatly from a trampoline.
Not only would it give him an outlet to use some of that energy he never runs out of, but it would also provide sensory feedback for his proprioceptive system (the system that perceives movement in the body).
We had been wanting to get the kids a trampoline for a long time, but there was no flat surface to put one in our old house. The babies did have a little junior trampoline on the verandah when they were toddlers, but unfortunately the puppy ate it.
So now we have a good area for a nice, big trampoline for all the kids (including the big ones).
We bought a 12ft trampoline second hand from gumtree. All fancy-looking with a frame that looked new, and a spring-free mat.
Verdict? We did not like the spring-free mat. Instead of springs, the mat had thick elastic that wrapped around the frame. The mat had no bounce, and the kids were disappointed and quickly bored with it.
Master Hammer has since been aligned with Autism Queensland, an organisation that provides some funding for resources and specialist/medical support. We did need to have his Occupational Therapist ‘okay’ the trampoline as a funded resource.
We chose a 16ft springed-mat trampoline, big enough for the Oldest Hammerling to do flips and so forth.
There is plenty of bounce, and Master Hammer has visited it probably every daylight hour for around 20mins at a time since we put it up.
Already, we have noticed a difference in his temperament when he comes out of it. He is calmer and more biddable.
As for the old trampoline, it has been pulled down. We are keeping the base frame to maybe make a chook pen later down the track.
Remember the good old days when you spent your afternoons jumping on a trampoline that had no padded mat to cover the springs, and no netted enclosure? Every now and then you’d land with one leg down the hole between the springs? And man, did it hurt when you got your skin pinched by the spring!
While I certainly agree that the world has gone the way of bubble-wrapping humankind, I do like the security of the pads and net. Just in the last 24 hours, those two safety measures have prevented Little Miss Hammer from jumping clean off it three times (that I have personally witnessed!), and pinching countless times.
Indoor trampolines (like the little exercise ones) are also great for autistic kids, if your climate would restrict winter use outdoors, or you don’t have a backyard.
We have seen others who have dug a pit so the trampoline mat is level with the ground. That seems like a great idea if you have proper drainage (and you don’t want to move the trampoline around the yard).
For us, we think how it is, is just fine. Little Miss Hammer seems to be enjoying it, anyway.
Trampolines have been proven to be an effective sensory stimulus for kids with sensory needs. Trampoline Activity Centres are becoming increasingly popular for everyone, so give it a go.
I personally hadn’t been on a trampoline for years, since I was a kid myself. The Oldest Hammerling, for his fourteenth birthday, chose to have a few friends celebrate with him at a Trampoline Centre (The Big Boing). It was a lot of fun. And a lot of exercise!
For mums, if you’re gonna get in there with the kids, just a bit of advice – make sure you do your kegels!!