Engaging children with autism in sensory activities is beneficial in several ways, as it can help with:
- Stimulating the brain, creating neutral pathways and improving sensory processing systems
- Improving social skills such as communication and co-operation
- Improving co-ordination, as well as fine/gross motor skills
- Calming children down when they are agitated
Try a range of activities to stimulate all of the five senses – touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Try small activities and evaluate what works well, and what should be avoided based on the individual child. Remember, sensory activities will be beneficial for all of the children in your care, not just those diagnosed with (or displaying indications of) autism.
Children will often seek out sensory activities if none are provided and you may find them in the sink/toilet playing with the water, squeezing and smearing paint, banging toys, shredding paper, card etc. Pulling down displays searching for Blu-tac is also a sensory seeking behaviour you may see.
Having accessible activities fulfill these sensory needs will hopefully reduce the inappropriate activities.
Examples of appropriate and directed sensory activities:
- Gloopy play for smearing
- Water play
- Wet and dry sand
- Tough spot with paper to shred
- Leaves, pasta or similar for children to pick up and drop (visual stimulation)
- Mixing paint and mark making
- Safe space (tented area with cushions) to include sound and light cause and effect toys and books
These activities should be incorporated into their daily learning.
Some examples of activities are: