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Going up in the air to get more grounded: Thomas More College visits the UK to learn about rebound therapy

| March 23, 2020 | 0 Comments


I was honoured to travel to England and Wales last year on an ISASA visitorship grant,1 during which time I researched neurodiversity (how we teach children who may learn in different ways).2 Iwas excited to grow personally and professionally and to be able to share my acquired knowledge with colleagues, and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that was given to me. I visited 10 schools, both mainstream and special needs, and observed various approaches and therapies that had a positive impact on the children and were making a difference to their learning experiences. In these schools, I was fortunate to observe ‘trust touch’, a form of massage that helps to calm children, and music therapy in a sensory integration room. Story massage, which was performed with hand movements on one another’s backs, brought each child to a place of optimal learning. Go Noodle3 was successfully used as a brain break.

Rebound therapy in action

Rebound therapy was the best for me, touching my heart and bringing tears to my eyes. I observed Tom, the class teacher, coach an eight-year-old non-verbal autistic boy. It took 15 minutes to direct the student to the hall where there was a full-sized trampoline, as he was anxious and easily distracted. Once he saw the trampoline, the student was eager and responsive. Tom accompanied him onto the trampoline and learning immediately took place. The child looked deeply into his instructor’s eyes and happily chose various pictorial cards, choosing the movement he would like to do. He was calm, happy and relaxed, as opposed to the classroom situation, where he felt frustrated and angry. I was amazed by how much learning could take place in such a short time. On returning to the classroom, the boy remained calm and was cooperative and willing to learn.

‘The term “rebound therapy” describes a specific methodology.’

I had booked and paid for a certified rebound therapy course in East Grinstead in the UK and I knew that this would be of great interest, having seen the therapy being used effectively in several schools. Although the idea of using trampolines in schools has existed in the UK since the 1950s, it was not until the 1970s that the concept of rebound therapy was developed by physiotherapist, remedial gymnast and head teacher, Eddy Anderson, who worked with children who had physical and learning disabilities. As I was a gymnast myself, this made the course even more appealing. I spent two full days involved in practical work and theory, learning about the benefits, the contra-indications, safety and cross-curricular teaching opportunities related to rebound therapy. I learned the various moves and progressions for rebound therapy exercises and how to use the Winstrada programme5 to record the progress of each child. I then qualified as a Level 2 rebound therapy practitioner.6

What are the benefits?

The term ‘rebound therapy’ describes a specific methodology, assessment and programme of using trampolines to provide opportunities for enhanced movement patterns, therapeutic positioning, exercise and recreation for a wide range of users with additional needs. Rebound therapy is used to facilitate movement, promote balance and an increase or decrease in muscle tone, relaxation and sensory integration. It improves fitness, exercise tolerance and communication skills. Other benefits include increased stamina, spatial awareness, body awareness, social awareness, consideration of others, trust and confidence, relaxation, freedom of movement and a huge sense of achievement. In a neurodiverse classroom, many pupils learn differently. Kinesthetic learners benefit from movement, and therefore the motion of a trampoline stimulates concentration and promotes learning. Participants include all ages and they may have mild to severe physical disabilities and/or sensory impairment.

‘More please!’ at Moorcroft and all over the world

Moorscroft School in Uxbridge in the UK is a so-called ‘special’ school and is part of the Eden Academy Trust, one of the UK’s largest special multiacademy trusts. Danielle Aubrey, a speech and language assistant at the school, said they began their journey not really knowing what rebound therapy was, and what they discovered exceeded their expectations. The biggest benefit for them has been using the therapy as a communication tool. The reward is immediate, physical and fun, therefore encouraging the students to ask for more. There are so many opportunities for communication within a session. When arriving at the session, will they ask for help, wait their turn, and indicate what they want? Once on the trampoline, will they make requests, comment or refuse? Helen Webb, from Gymnastics New South Wales (NSW),7 states that rebound therapy promotes opportunities for all. It is used for all participants, either as a low-level recreational activity, or for rehabilitation, or to support those with disabilities. Kingsley Gibson,8 a physiotherapist from Sydney Sports Medicine Centre, states that rebound therapy uses altered gravitational effects and weightlessness to enable the individual to achieve physical exercise. ‘This is important when training,’ he says, ‘as it decreases the load on the body, which helps to reduce the risk of injury, and improve the cardiovascular and muscular load.’ Rebound therapy is successfully used in the United States of America, the UK, Australia and Zambia.9 From my personal research, and the above testimonies, I can see the value of this trampoline-based therapy.

Jenny Sim teaches at Thomas More College near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.


  1. The ISASA Staff Development Fund considers grant applications from staff at ISASA member schools. Applications can be made for, inter alia, international visitorships to independent schools globally and African visitorships to independent schools in Africa. See:
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Category: Autumn 2020

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