Teaching Personal Boundaries with Hula Hoops

This fantastic intervention idea comes from Kathryn Lanier, MS, CI, NCC. It’s a simple, wonderful way to teach children how to respect personal boundaries. Mr. Lanier earned a gift certificate to childtherapytoys.com for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!

While working with an autistic child in an elementary school I found the use of hula-hoops borrowed from the PE teacher to be very useful. The child I was working with was having issues with personal boundaries and was touching or climbing on other children as well as the teachers. The child and I picked up the hula-hoops from the gym and walked back to my office with each of us holding one around our waist to represent our personal space and illustrate the distance we should have from another person while walking with them. Back in the room we each sat in the center of a hoop while we played and simply moved the hoops with us as we scooted around the floor during play. If the child wanted to reach out to me and cross my hula-hoop boundary–say to hold my hand or tap my shoulder–the child was required to ask my permission to enter my sphere. I, of course, did the same for him, which gave him a sense of control over his environment and personal safety. It was a huge success! This is a valuable visual and physical tool for children who have attachment disorders and seek affection from strangers.

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