Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


Sensory Stimulation for Children on the Autism Spectrum

"I hear a lot about 'sensory stimulation' for children with autism and other spectrum disorders. Why? Is this something all parents should be doing for their autistic child? And how do you go about it?"

Children on the autism spectrum really benefit from sensory stimulation. Stimulating the senses has a positive effect on learning as well as emotional and social growth in the child. Sensory stimulation in learning means having activities that challenge the five senses. These senses (touch, taste, smell, listening, and visual) should be included in the child's learning. 

Schools incorporate sensory stimulation in their curriculum via the basics of math and reading, special classes such as art, and extracurricular activities such as sports. The same is true for students on the autism spectrum.

Providing a sensory room (or area) can be very effective. Be as creative as you can when providing sensory stimulation for your child. There are many things you can purchase, but you can also make many things yourself. What you use should in part be determined by what your child enjoys or is seeking.

Some ideas are: 
  • A mini trampoline can provide physical exercise and sensory input.
  • Create a touch board, and attach a variety of materials from sand paper to carpet.
  • Fill a tub with sand, navy beans, or other similar item that they can play in.
  • Find different scents of potpourri that they can use for deep breathing.
  • Hang a swing from your ceiling (if it is reinforced).
  • Have music playing that your child enjoys - this can be calming music or vigorous music.
  • String blinking Christmas lights around the room.
  • Use a hammock for the child to lay in and receive deep pressure.
  • Use a variety of lotions for both scent and touch.
  • Use a vibrating massage-machine for deep touch.
  • Use play dough for touch activities.

    The purpose of this room is to waken your child's senses. It also helps him or her to calm down (when needed). It's most effective to create a schedule of when the child will be provided free time in this room. It's probably NOT best to give him or her free access to the sensory room. It's best to use the room at transition times to provide a smooth transition, or as a reward for meeting the expectations of parents (and teachers).


    Anonymous said...

    What about for the child (teenager) who doesn't like sensory stim? Who doesn't like to be touches, but is over-stimulated, yet has no interest in doing these things?!!

    Anonymous said...

    My Aspergers little boy nearly 5 had trouble settling down at night. We were advised last year by his nursery SENCO worker to use sensory play before bedtime, 20 minutes. It definitely made an improvement. From 2 hours to 30-45 minutes. I'll try the others on your list. Great article. Thank you.

    Anonymous said...

    Exactly what I did was fill the bathroom sink for water play or set the play dough table up. It was quite a different concept to the bath,bed book routine I've done for years with his older sisters. Play? Before bed?!! But it definitely calmed him. Also he started on omega 3 6 9 I believe this helps also. Lavender essential oil on his pillow too. He enjoys building mario worlds with blocks and figures lately, its ok to play before bed!!

    munckinsmommy said...

    My son is the same way sometimes...he needs to be grounded sensory wise. Try having him wear something that will give deep pressure like a heavy back pack or something tell him it will help him build muscles to attract girls....or use headphones....the cool kind other kids wear to block out sound....see if you can have them tailored to put in sound blocking naterial

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