The Benefits of Indoor Playgrounds for Children with AADC Deficiency
An hour of physical therapy cost us $150. The therapy rooms were filled with swings, mats, blocks, and an array of colorful items. There’s no room in our house to set up our own and we’d probably break the bank trying. However, we could have the same equipment and more at indoor playgrounds for a fraction of the cost.
An indoor playground does not offer a physiotherapist, but there is still so much we can achieve with parents or carers.
An ideal environment for learning through play
A physical therapy session provided a welcoming environment with colorful tools, but our daughter Rylae-Ann, who suffers from aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) deficiency, could still sense that it was hospital-related. Your fear would be great. Most of the paid hour-long session was spent coaxing her to start the session happy and keeping her motivated the whole time. With every scream and every pause, I felt the money fall out of my pocket.
With the indoor playground, that was never a problem. The atmosphere is even more child-friendly. As other children run around happily and their favorite songs blast out of the speakers, Rylae-Ann excitedly enters and reluctantly leaves.
It’s the ideal environment to work on exercises that you normally don’t get excited about. She never notices that we are doing physiotherapy. Everything is a game for them. Even if I stop and have her do a certain exercise, she stays excited.
Cool and clean
Outdoor playgrounds and parks are also an option. Unlike an indoor playground, admission is generally free, but the price of admission to an indoor playground is well worth the cost. Indoor playgrounds are cooled to the temperature of a theater or a walk-in refrigerator. This is perfect for children with AADC deficiency who may have symptoms such as excessive sweating and temperature instability due to autonomic dysfunction. Stay cool and comfortable while you and your child are physically active.
Also, indoor playgrounds are usually cleaner in my experience, especially since COVID-19. Staff are committed to screening children upon entry, providing hand sanitizer, requiring masks and deep cleaning equipment. Outdoor parks are at the mercy of Mother Nature, who provides rain showers that are often far from sterile. According to a HomeAdvisor article, “outdoor playground tunnels contained, on average, 1,500 times more bacteria than indoor playground tunnels.” To put it more graphically, outdoor playgrounds have more than 52,000 times more bacteria than your toilet seat at home.
So many options for physical therapy
The environment guides you and your child, even if you don’t have specific movements or exercises to work on. Before gene therapy, I had many things to do for Rylae-Ann, but she still loved going to the playground. After gene therapy, she remembered the activities and was able to make faster progress as a result.
Ask your physical therapist to give you weekly homework with exercises you can do on your own. We’ve tried to achieve this at home, but when we’ve done it at indoor playgrounds, it’s been a much more enjoyable experience.
Improving sensory integration
When we first brought Rylae-Ann to an indoor playground, we only took a few shy steps through the entrance before she started screaming. At the time we didn’t know much about our daughter’s rare condition, so we left our first trip for fear of triggering what we now know to be an eye crisis.
We revisited the indoor playground a year later. I wish we hadn’t given up so easily because Rylae-Ann started to enjoy it after a few rides and ended up loving it. Today she asks us to take her there and I know I have to prepare a speech to recite patiently when I tell her it’s time to go.
Sensory integration is a skill we are re-evaluating. We have not been too consistent with this paramedical therapy, but now recognize that it is critical to the success of other therapies. Play equipment such as seesaws, slides, swings, trampolines and bouncy balls help.
Bring a physical therapist with you
My wife Judy is great at thinking outside the box and solving problems. As the price of physical therapy sessions was difficult to justify given the actual time our daughter could have for them, she came up with the idea of having the physical therapist come to us.
We initially conducted the physiotherapy sessions at home. This was great because it reduced our travel time and cost. However, in the home setting, Rylae-Ann would be more defiant. It was her room and her toys. We were still wasting session time getting them ready.
When Judy arranged a meeting with the physical therapist at the indoor playground, we had an action-packed session. Everyone was happier. The therapist enjoyed it there and it has become a regular adventure.
Finding physical therapists to conduct a session outside of their office may not be easy. While you’re looking for someone, keep bringing your homework and enjoy all the fun benefits of using an indoor playground to help meet your child’s goals. Although this welcoming and cool environment provides a safer space for your child, you should still practice good hygiene to minimize exposure to germs and bacteria.
Note: AADC News is solely a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with questions about any medical condition. Never disregard or delay in seeking professional medical advice because you have read something on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of AADC News or its parent company, BioNews, and is intended to stimulate discussion on topics related to Deficiency of aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase.