Strengthening exercises for children with vision loss

One of the challenges facing many families with a child who has vision loss, is how everyone can enjoy physical and outdoor activities together. This was the case for the Beukes family, parents Ron and Sylvia and their three children.

Ruan and Sylvia’s youngest daughter Genique lost her vision when she was four. She became blind due to optic atrophy and optic glioma – a benign brain tumour growing on the optic nerve tissue.

At a very young age, she underwent chemotherapy to shrink the size of the tumour and continues to have regular hospital appointments.

Encouraging physical activity

The whole family loves sport and the outdoor life. Genique’s older sister is a state swimmer and gymnast – her brother is mad about soccer. Her parents are also sporty. Her father is a former masters softball player.

The family wanted Genique, now eleven, to participate in physical activity like her siblings because they knew it would bring a raft of benefits. Genique is on steroids because of her benign tumour. Strengthening exercises that are non-weight bearing such as cycling and swimming are perfect for her.

When she was younger, through fundraising, her parents, Ruan and Sylvia, managed to get a specially adapted push-along bike for Genique. When she outgrew it, her parents looked for alternatives and found a company that could customise a tag-along bicycle for her. A sighted person sits at the front and steers it while Genique pedals from behind. Whoever is the pilot can give ongoing commentary advising Genique of hills, turns and braking.

Genique sits at the back of the bike and mum, Sylvia is at the front.
Genique can now go riding with her mother

Tag-along bike

Perth-based disability bike company called K-Equip (link opens in new window) made the tag-along bike specifically for her. It’s modified and is perfect for her needs.

“We got NDIS funding for the bike through the Capital Supports budget. The application was lengthy, but we knew how much she had enjoyed her other bike,” explains mum Sylvia.

Her left leg is weaker, so this bike is encouraging her to use both legs and the physiotherapy and strengthening exercises are helping her to achieve that goal.

Genique’s mother – Sylvia

“We can now go on rides together as a family. It hooks off the back of my bike and folds up, so we can take it camping and further afield.”

Physiotherapy and strengthening exercises

VisAbility Physiotherapist Kathryn has been working with Genique to create a program incorporating strengthening exercises and balance to stay upright to power the bike.

“Our objectives during the physiotherapy sessions are to work on developing hip and trunk strength, her motor control and dynamic balancing. These skills will not only help with bike riding but also in everyday life, to go up and down stairs, slopes and steps. It should increase her mobility to swim.”

“I want Genique to get stronger and develop her skills in a fun and enjoyable way, so she has a positive experience with being active. It’s already helping her to swim more easily. It will carry her through her adolescent years and into adulthood.”

Genique’s Physiotherapist – Kathryn

Physiotherapist Kathryn stands in front of the bike. Genique sits on the tag-along bike behind
The tag-along bike was custom-made to suit Genique’s needs

For children like Genique, activities incorporated into physiotherapy sessions will improve gross motor skills. A typical hour-long session for children can include:

Obstacle Course

Genique bends down touching a cone laid out on the pavement
An obstacle course will help with strengthening

An obstacle course focussing on balance, strength and coordination. Props are an easy way to make physiotherapy exercises more exciting and challenging.

  • Use plastic stepping stones, tactile stretches of lead,
  • Incorporate cones to navigate around them and put hoops on the cones to encourage lifting, bending and picking them up
  • Foam filled blocks to step up and down.

Yoga card game

Genique sits next to Kathryn who is turning over one of the yoga cards

It’s an educational twist on snap. If you get two similar cards, then you have to adopt a pose. For example, two dogs – perform a downward dog, two lions – stay seated but sit straight like a lion, two rainbows put one hand over your head like a stretched rainbow.

Yoga card games are great for:

  • Posture, flexibility, strength, balance, coordination and motor skills
  • Strengthening
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Gross motor skills

Tactile (blindfold) Twister

Kathryn sits alongside a Twister mat with Physiotherapist Kathryn rolling out the yoga mat
Twister helps with coordination and also promotes independency

The blindfold Twister game is a perfect sensory game. It features textured shapes on the spots, so Genique can feel for them with her hands and feet after receiving an instruction.

Tactile twister is perfect for:

  • Motor coordination
  • Balancing
  • Bending
  • Stretching
  • Enhancing independence

How to get support

Genique receives regular physiotherapy sessions, occupational therapy and orientation and mobility instruction. Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the low vision services and support we can provide. Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.

There are a number of low vision support groups within Perth and across the state.

If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.

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