Ep. 117: How Surf Therapy Helps Neurodivergent Kids with Naomi Matanick, OTR/L

Jan 24, 2023 | 0 comments

As we continue our conversation about different treatment and therapy options, you may discover unique options that are a right fit for your child. Today’s topic is certainly unique! We’re diving into surf therapy.

Surf therapy is one mode of therapy among many that helps neurodiverse kids with many different skills. You may not have heard about this therapeutic tool that uses the elements of the ocean, a surfboard, and sand, but it targets sensory processing, physical and emotional regulation, motor planning, coordination, and mental health.

To help us learn more about surf therapy is guest Naomi Matanick who has become passionate about helping neurodiverse children and adolescents through the properties of the ocean. She explains what surf therapy is, how different skills are targeted and impacted, and the types of kids that would benefit from it.


Show Notes:

[2:50] – Surf therapy is one therapeutic tool among many. There are many properties in the ocean that impact our bodies.

[4:13] – This mode of therapy is particularly beneficial for children with sensory processing difficulties.

[4:50] – The movement of the ocean brings on a sense of body awareness and activates different body systems.

[6:27] – Surf therapy helps with emotional regulation, but going into the water can initially be scary.

[8:03] – Naomi lists some of the skills integrated into surf therapy, including balance, visual development, and core strength.

[9:54] – Surf therapy also affects executive functioning skills as well as higher level cognitive functions like safety and planning.

[11:24] – Surf therapy can help so many kids, but particularly those who struggle with self-regulation and sensory integration.

[13:43] – The end goal is not to become a surfer. It’s to have the child engage in something that is fun and playful.

[14:40] – Age 6 and up into early adolescence is a great time to start this kind of therapy but it is really based upon each individual child’s needs.

[16:45] – There is an increasing rate of mental health issues among adolescents but research shows the benefit of physical activity on mental health, including surfing.

[19:31] – Naomi shares her experience in how neurodiverse children overcome specific challenges with surf therapy.

[21:48] – Currently, Naomi works with children one-on-one, but would like to expand to group therapy.

[23:16] – Surfing is a very individualized sport rather than a competitive one.

[24:23] – Naomi’s hope is that through this mode of therapy children gain self-confidence and self-trust.


About Our Guest:

Naomi Matanick is a pediatric occupational therapist specializing in sensory integration therapy, surf therapy, and childhood and infant development. Kids are amazing and dynamic individuals. Yet, they have a lot to conquer. In her years of experience, she has served infants to early adolescents in a variety of areas including: sensory processing, physical and emotional regulation, organization of behavior and attention, acquisition of vital motor milestones, motor coordination development, and oral-motor therapy for feeding. Naomi’s mission is for each caregiver and child to feel understood and empowered as they are equipped with life-long tools. Her passion is to see children feel joy as they playfully develop a strong identity and sense of self through the skills and knowledge they have obtained.


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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.