AERIAL FORM AND OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
Research/Article: Marilena Vasileiadou
Let’s start with a simple question: What is common between Occupational Therapy and Aerial Arts?
To begin with, as a field, Occupational Therapy, helps individuals with physical and mental disabilities to conduct daily activities or simple, single acts. An occupational therapist who has studied subjects such as Anatomy, Physiology, Neurology and Psychology, is able to help a patient that has previously suffered from a stroke, to (re)learn to bathe on his/her own, or a group of children with autism interact and play with each other. At this point, we should mention Aerial form, as a therapeutic mean, that makes all of the above possible The term DCA (Developmental Circus Arts), was initially used by Jackie Davis, circus arts professor, while she was studying Neurology at the University of British Columbia, in order to describe the philosophy and practice of aerial arts, as a way to improve physical, emotional, social and cognitive abilities of youngsters. Similar practices are applied to schools and institutes by occupational therapists, thanks to the pioneers Jil Magilo and Carol Mckinstry, who created the program “Circus in Schools”. Nowadays, Aerial Yoga Hammocks are used as fitness tools, at studios and gyms and as therapeutic tools in fields such as Occupational Therapy, Psychotherapy and Physiotherapy.
Since we are analyzing the use of the Hammock for Aerial Yoga, in the field of Occupational Therapy, we will briefly mention some of its important benefits as described by specialists who used it in several cases. Thanks to the positive environment that the Hammock creates inside its “cocoon”, a child with autism feels safe and independent, free to move as it pleases and enjoy common activities with other youngsters. This whole process aims at helping a minor or an adult realize their connection with an object within a particular space. As circus artist John-Paul Zaccarini mentions, it is, in fact, a dialogue between the Individual and the Hammock.
Good news is that Aerial form is rapidly growing in Greece as a therapy, at Therapeutic Centres, with impressive results. The owner of the Special Therapies Centre “Kinitro ke Kinisi” (Motivation and Movement), Savvas Kellidis, in an effort to broaden the means of therapy for Children with Autism, worked with our company Salachi, in order to make a sensory swing, solely made from Aerial Yoga Salachi fabrics. After testing this installation for a certain period, he mentioned: “The child comes in contact with intense haptic, proprioception and vestibular stimulation, while playing and interacting with the fabric. Activities that require “hard work”, activate both the muscles and the joints. In this way, a youngster acquires the ability to tone both the upper and the lower extremities, and have better postural control, improved balance and kinetic design, while trying to balance and cross from one Hammock to another (e.g triple hammock).
To conclude, adjusting Aerial techniques in therapeutic fields, and encouraging individuals with disabilities to get introduced to these techniques, we give them the opportunity to discover abilities they didn’t know they acquire, while informing a broader audience, concerning the multiple uses of the Hammock. Aerial practice is not just a way to escape our daily routine, but it can and it does change our lives for the better!