My Aspergers child has great difficulty with balance – is this a normal Aspergers trait or something else?
Both Aspergers (high-functioning autism) and Sensory Integration Dysfunction often go hand in hand. It is common to hear that a child with Aspergers also has difficulty with balance and other gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and unusual tolerance (or intolerance) to sounds, lights, smells, and touch. These complaints cause as much of a problem for children with Aspergers as the actual language, communication, and social weaknesses that are a direct result of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
There are therapies that address the symptoms of Aspergers and sensory issues. However, there are activities you can do at home with your child that will help develop sensory integration. There are separate sensory systems that create a person’s sensory profile. Here is a list of these sensory areas:
- Fine motor skills are necessary for grasping, writing, tying shoes, and working buttons and zippers. These skills include all physical skills related to the strength and control of the small muscles of the body.
- Gross motor skills are necessary for walking, kicking, jumping, and coordination. These skills include all physical skills related to the strength and control of the large muscle groups of the body.
- Proprioception is the ability to properly use the big muscles and joints of the body.
- Tactile is the ability to properly interpret touch.
- Vestibular is the ability to balance, body movement, and knowing where your body is in relation to space. Closely related, but not exactly sensory systems, these skill areas are often incorporated during occupational/sensory therapies.
When working with children with Aspergers and sensory issues, keep in mind that many physical play activities can be adapted to your home therapy program. Sensory therapy should look like play and it should be fun. Here are some activities you can try, along with the sensory systems each activity will benefit:
• Encourage pushing or pulling heavy weight, such as a basket of books or toys.
• Have the child jump into a foam pit or onto a padded mat.
• Have the child jump on a trampoline.
• Have the child walk on a balance beam
• Push the child on a swing.
• Have a finger painting session.
• Mash and roll out Play-Doh.
• Play catch by tossing a textured, weighted ball.
• Use mud, pudding, or shaving cream to play in with hands and feet.
There are many books and videos that can help you develop a home play therapy plan for your child with Aspergers and sensory issues. One such guide is the video entitled, “Learn to Move, Move to Learn, Dinosaurs” by Jenny Clark Brack. This video is a theme-based lesson geared towards young children.
My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums