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Copyright 2010 BIG FUN:  Pediatric Occupational Therapist.  All Rights Reserved. 
BIG FUN’s goal is to give each child the opportunity to experience what all children are entitled to: an active life that is filled with excitement, self-confidence, discovery, and fun. The over-arching goal of BIG FUN Recreational Programs is to promote the integration of children with disabilities into all aspects of life – family, school, and community – through recreational activities, including recreational activities for autistic children and social skills training for autism. Coaches build personal, nurturing bonds with their students, which allow the children to excel far beyond their limits. Sessions at BIG FUN empower children to maintain the strength and endurance demands of peer play when at a playground. The BIG FUN sensory diet teaches self-regulation and modulation of behaviors which, in turn, helps children be more alert and organized at school and relaxed at restaurants, the shopping mall, and family outings and gatherings.

The BIG FUN approach facilitates sensory play through:

  • Climbing
  • Tumbling/rolling
  • Obstacle course
  • Trampoline
  • Balance beam 
  • Developing upper extremity strength
  • Increasing knowledge of location in space
  • Problem solving and creativity
  • Developing lower extremity strength
  • Coordination, balance, and focus 

This approach provides the structure necessary for all children to excel in gymnastics: waiting, taking turns, sharing equipment, and maintaining appropriate behavior.

The group recreational setting allows for natural peer interactions. The logistics of working together in a gymnastics setting requires that the children take turns and practice awareness of their surroundings. In this natural group experience, children cheer for each other, praise each other for their accomplishments and assist each other when needed. Participants learn key elements of working together as a team, such as collaboration, sportsmanship and concern for their team mates. Classes meet weekly for one hour sessions per week.   Ages 3-17 welcome. 
Placement is based on initial evaluation and current class schedule.
The goal for every child in the BIG FUN Social Skills Program is to: show increased awareness and concern for peers, demonstrate improved ability to follow rules of conduct in a social setting, demonstrate increased social flexibility, and show empathy for peers.

BIG FUN’s therapy department is made up of  licensed pediatric occupational therapists. Their knowledge about the biomechanical, communicational, social-emotional, sensory, and cognitive components allows them to address these elements and their effects on children in their daily lives. BIG FUN Therapy, created by Gene Hurwin, MA, OTR/L, is a unique program which combines therapy, social and peer interaction, sensory integration, and gymnastics progressions.

Therapists working with children face the challenge of engaging them in therapeutic activities while maintaining their interest and making their sessions fun. Mr. Hurwin constructed his program around the concept that children are meant to PLAY. They are not concerned with what might be best for their future, but instead with what is fun and important to them at that very moment. Many children have been in therapy since infancy. They recognize the sterile environment of a clinic and can sense when a therapist is requiring that they "work" instead of "play." 

The gymnastics environment provides an abundance of therapeutic activities to increase strength, ROM, balance and improve sensory processing, motor planning, and organizational behavior. Many times the children do not even realize how much their bodies are benefiting from their favorite activity, which is often the trampoline. The sensory experiences that are available in the gym prepare the body and its nervous system to learn. The children can then utilize their newly acquired gymnastics skills and modify them to accomplish functional goals. A full workout with therapeutic effects can be accomplished in the gym through fun, laughing, and activities that BIG FUN kids are not aware are actually therapy.

BIG FUN occupational therapists use clinical reasoning during the evaluation and treatment planning process. A battery of standardized assessments and clinical observations is used to assist in determining each child’s initial level of functioning in the areas of gross-motor, fine-motor, sensory processing, and organizational behavior.

These observations as well as the therapists’ practical and technical knowledge of typical development and movement allow them to create a unique treatment plan for each child. The treatments are child-directed and play-based, integrating constant negotiations and adjustments of levels of difficulty and expectations to maintain the “just-right challenge.” This occurs when a child is not only internally motivated and engaged in an achievable activity, but also is challenged enough to create new and appropriate adaptive responses. As the child masters this activity, he or she feels successful and is able to function at a higher level in home, educational, social, and emotional contexts.

BIG FUN Therapy Services operates in professional gymnastics training facilities filled with typical gymnastics classes, competitive teams, and other recreational activities. By modeling the behavior and movement patterns of the gymnasts who surround them, BIG FUN children are able to increase their potential through organizing their behavior and movement. The traditional and non-traditional therapeutic equipment in our gymnastics centers allow the therapists to bring their full spectrum of creativity and intensity into each session, providing the children with the sensory experiences their nervous systems are craving. 

BIG FUN Therapy is recommended for children: 

  • On the Autistic Spectrum
  • Cerebral Palsy, all forms
  • Mental Retardation 
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Sensory Integration Issues
  • Apraxia/Dyskinesia
  • Visual/Perceptual Issues
  • Strength/Endurance Issues
  • Rett Syndrome
  • Fragile X Syndrome
  • Deaf-Blind
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Behavioral Issues
  • Social/Communication Issues
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Attention Hyper-Activity Disorder
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Multiple Diagnoses
  • Amputation(s)
  • Spina Bifida
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Angelman’s Syndrome
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Cognition Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Fine Motor Issues

Fun Activities for Autistic Children and Those with Special Needs