It is vital to involve your child in sensory activities, this includes exploring touch, taste, sound and more- it is even more important for children with autism. Noisy surroundings and particular atmospheres can cause them to become anxious and irritable.
Although every individual is different, autistic children often share similar characteristics and can struggle to socialise, empathise and join imaginative play.
Believe it or not- you can now help them improve all of the above by simply encouraging them to engage in sensory play. This includes utilising touch and taste activities for kids, as well as various light-up toys.
Sensory integration can include:
There’s a number of ways to introduce your little one to the sensory therapy they require, many times it can be sensory play tables. These enable them to discover imaginative ways to play and enjoy their toys whilst using all senses. Different children have their preferences and often they can use the game, how they wish, using objects, sounds and overall tables to suit them.
In this article, we list benefits that sensory activities bring to people with autism.
1. Developing Social Skills
Drawing correlation between general sensory play and social skills may seem irrelevant when initially pondering about the two but experimenting with senses does help improve social skills. There are a number of reasons for this and as you delve into the subject you will unravel a number of advantages. Developing communication and social skills is one of the most important aspects of sensory therapy.
Sensory play allows for children to open brain pathways and subsequently build nerve connections. This then allows social skills to be improved. Recent research has shown that those that have integrated sensory plans every day, for 10-weeks, improve their social interaction, speech and communication skills. This can have many benefits for children with various types of special needs.
Many professionals are urging parents and teachers to incorporate various sensory ideas into their daily routine. A routine for those with autism is another important factor. Combine both by implementing sensory play into their day-to-day plan. This will then help them process information, including the atmosphere and surroundings- that can help individuals with autism become more comfortable in various social situations.
Be sure to check out our post about playground designs for non-verbal children to get ideas on how to create more inclusive play areas.
2. Improving Coordination and Physical Development
One of the overlooked aspects of sensory therapy is coordination and overall physical development. When you think about it, it’s pretty obvious that these types of improvements come hand-in-hand with testing sensory skills. Enjoying all senses can be physical play and also helps develop attributes that essentially help physical activity.
Two of the big factors of improving physical skills is to develop both fine motor skills and gross motor skills. These also contribute to sensory exploration and can help children with special needs. See below for more information on each:
- Fine Motor Skills- Fine motor skills involve testing precision. This can be picking up small objects. It helps coordination as well as allowing our little ones to experiment with their sense of touch.
- Gross Motor Skills- This refers to playful activities that are physical. This is an important lesson for all children. It can be activities that involve squatting down, jumping, walking and more.
As you can imagine, all of the above assists children with developing physically and with coordination. Those with autism generally struggle with movement and this can then ‘snowball’ as a lack of physical activity will prevent the development of motor skills.
It’s important to note that autistic children have reported that joint hypermobility, apraxia and toe walking are common problems. Sensory activities for autism can sometimes help with these things.
3. Helping Children Relax and Calm Down
If your child is getting agitated, then offering them a toy or game that can activate their stimulus could help calm them down. It can be the case with many kids, but children with autism can get themselves really worked up. If you’re a parent, then you may be aware of the ‘melt-downs’ that occur, this can happen in any location, at any time.
Once it boils over, it can be difficult to put our little one back at ease. It can be painful to watch and not being able to do anything for them, is not a nice situation for any parent or teacher.
Thankfully, it’s possible to calm them with sensory games. Depending on where you are, it’s not always possible to set up specific games- that’s why you’ll need transport-friendly alternatives.
There are also specific playground designs to help Sensory Processing Disorder which can make the outdoors accessible to all children.
4. Stimulating the Brain and Cognitive Skills
Autism is a cognitive disability- and stimulating the frontal lobes can be done in a variety of ways. Each of them include sensory tasks of some kind, by introducing our children to sensory play from a young age can help them develop the cognitive pathways as well as activating their rationality.
It is often reported that people with ASD struggle to emphasise- sensory therapy can help these individuals develop cognitive skills and improve mental health.
5. Problem Solving Skills
Many of the aforementioned games and activities include more than switching on their senses, but they also include problem-solving. Like many of the benefits of sensory play included in this article, each of them are intertwined.
For instance, problem-solving and being able to rationalise can then help advance overall social skills and interaction.
Sensory Play Ideas for Autistic Children
By now, we’re aware that sensory play can develop autistic children in a number of ways. It helps improve their coordination, cognitive function, social skills, problem-solving and can put them at ease.
But how can you help them enjoy various sensory play activities?
There’s a number of games and tasks for them to enjoy here are some of our suggestions.
- Scented Playdough- You can make a batch of playdough with scents. It’s possible to buy it with a scent, but you can also mix them with cinnamon, vanilla, almond and other identifiable smells.
- Tasting Game- Simply blindfold and have them guess the taste. It is an enjoyable game that has them rely on the taste sense.
- Musical Instruments- Shakers, homemade drums and other instruments can be a lot of fun. This is something that comes down to individual preference, some noises can create irritation and anxiousness, let them choose the instrument.
- Light-up Games- Different light-up games or activities can immerse children. This can be cartoons, light-up games that include coordination and other toys.
- Movement Play- Movement can include a number of things. Get them moving around, walking, finding objects and picking them up.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the benefits of sensory play for autism. Why not give these a go at your school and see how they can help children’s development.