Rehab: Brushing Home Exercise Program

What is the Willbarger Appraoch?

Purpose: This method has been shown to benefit children with sensory processing issues, when performed according to the therapist’s instructions.

What is Needed: A surgical brush that does not scratch, tickle or itch when stroked firmly across the skin.

Frequency: Please perform the procedure every 1.5 to 2 hours during waking hours.

Time Length: Continue the procedure for no more than three (3) minutes per session.

Pressure Applied: Firm pressure should be applied to the brush during each stroke to bend all the brush bristles. It is best if the brush is drawn over the skin directly. Throughout each session, maintain contact with the child with either the brush or your hand at all times.

Steps for the Brushing Exercise

  1. Hold the brush in a horizontal direction.
  2. Brushing should involve quick, long strokes.
  3. Brush each arm, leg, back, buttocks, palms of hands and soles of feet – starting at the top of each and working your way down. Brush each limb or area 10 times, avoid repeated strokes on the same section of skin.
  4. After brushing is completed perform compressions – 10 quick presses with the hand as follows:
    • Down onto the top of shoulders
    • Into the side of shoulders
    • Into the elbows
    • Into the wrists
    • Into the fingers
    • Into the hips
    • Into the knees
    • Into the ankles

Precautions when performing the Willbarger Approach

  • Do not brush over the spine.
  • Do not brush the stomach, face or head. Do not brush over skin lesions or rashes.
  • Do not discontinue this home exercise program technique sooner than recommended by the therapy team. It is important that it be continued for the entire recommended timeframe.
  • Do not spend too much time in the same area that the skin turns red.
  • Do not use the brushing technique on children younger than 2 months old.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact your child’s occupational therapist.

This page was last updated on: November 10, 2020 01:43 PM

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