Children on the autism spectrum sometimes have difficulty interpreting and responding to their sensory experiences. This can result in an over-response to some sensations and an under-response to others. Sounds, textures, sights, tastes, and smells can have a powerful influence on kids with ASD. Incorporating activities that engage the senses and are a good fit for autistic children can help them better integrate sensory information and respond to their environment. Here are a few sensory activities your child with autism may enjoy.
1. Sensory Boxes
One fun activity is to create a sensory box filled with water beads, sand, beans or a mixture of a few ingredients. Add small toys or “treasures” and items like spoons or cups so your kiddo can dig, bury, and pour. These sensory play activities provide great sensory input and can have a calming effect. Some kids learn to use their sensory box as a coping tool when they start to feel frustrated or upset.
2. Homemade Play-dough
Play-dough and slime are extremely versatile kid favorites for sensory stimulation. You can make homemade play-dough with a variety of interesting and calming scents and colors using food extracts and food coloring. Kids can have fun molding the play-dough and guessing the smell, like cinnamon or lavender. Incorporate some fine-motor skill practice by planting small items in the play-dough for kids to dig out.
3. “Heavy-Work” Activities
Multisensory activities that help kids deeply feel their muscles and bodies working can support sensory integration. Heavy-work activities include lifting heavy items, pushing or pulling, and generally anything that challenges the muscles. Heavy-work tasks can be as simple as pushing a grocery cart or carrying books from one room to another. These activities are great for kids who need a lot of movement and for kids who are fatigued and need to wake up their senses. Plus, kids love to feel like they are helping. Other fun examples of heavy-work activities include handstands, bear hugs, and tug-of-war games.
4. Musical Instruments
Music is highly stimulating to the senses and the mind. Listening to and playing music can also be uplifting and soothing to kids with sensory processing issues. Kids can learn a traditional instrument, or they can create instruments of their own out of household materials. Make a rain stick out of a cardboard tube filled with beads, or maracas using a plastic egg filled with rice. You can also create a playlist of a few of your child’s favorite tunes they can jam along to. Dancing is definitely encouraged.
5. Deep Pressure
Deep pressure activities promote feelings of calmness and safety for many children with autism spectrum disorder. These activities are particularly useful when your child is experiencing sensory overload. Here are some quick and easy deep touch pressure exercises to try.
It may take some trial and error before you find sensory stimulation activities and sensory play ideas that are a good fit for your child’s senses. Think about your child’s individual special needs when planning an activity. Sensory seekers may want to dive right in. However, for kids who want to avoid certain sensory experiences, you can use these activities to gently introduce them to new textures and sensations while trying to avoid sensory overload. With the right support, your kid can learn tools and sensory activities for autism that will help them manage their sensory processing disorder issues and thrive.