Creating meaningful opportunities that enrich the lives of people with autism, their families and their communities.

Use Your Common Senses

Things You Can Find and Do at Home
to Stimulate Your Child with Autism

Every body is a sensory body, so it is only natural that we buy things that meet our own sensory needs in one capacity or another. It is just a matter of taking these items that we already own and making them useful for a person whose “sensory-self” is more sensitive. This guide is a resource for parents who have a child with autism. As you already know, your child has sensory needs that are beyond those of a typical person. Meeting these sensory needs can be a bit expensive when shopping from catalogs that specialize in sensory equipment. However, that does not mean that you cannot help your child engage in the sensory stimulation that his or her body may crave. There are plenty of resources you can find in your home to help build a Sensory Menu for your child with autism.

Many household chores present “double-benefit” opportunities. Helping out with the laundry is a good chance to help your child distinguish colors.

Laundry

WaterWater is an often overlooked source for sensory engagement. Many children and adults with autism have a fetish for water. In a way, we all do. Think of the relaxing effect of just thinking about a nice warm bath or a refreshing shower. As tactile stimulation goes, water is pretty diverse. Temperature and pressure from the water can be adjusted directly from the faucet. Or, a child might simply enjoy playing with water from a receptacle like a bowl – or playing in water, like in a bathtub. The love of water can be turned into a double benefit by asking your child to help with water-related tasks like washing dishes. This is also an opportunity to teach your child step-by-step events: turning on the water, adding detergent, setting up the dishes, etc. Working with a sponge while washing dishes gives their hands an added touch stimulation. Sponges, when applied with deep, even pressure, are also good during bath time while washing down your child.Sponge

Many household chores present “double-benefit” opportunities. When it is time to do Laundry, it is a good chance to help your child distinguish colors while he or she assists in separating clothes. At first you will have to help the child understand the difference, but over time, you will want your child to make the distinction on his or her own. It is a repetitive and ordered task that the autistic minds will appreciate. You might also let your child assist in carrying the laundry basket. The “soft weight” of the clothes will meet deep pressure needs. Lastly, that old extra broom you never threw away is a good tool for engaging the sensory needs for autism. When you are cleaning up, have your child clean with you. For your child, it is a chance to indulge a need for repetition. The swaying motions that are inherent with sweeping are sensory movements that your child will understand and indulge.

Silly Putty Of course, you don’t want everything to be all work and no play. So when chores are finished, it’s time to find some fun things around the house with which your child can indulge. A classic and favorite of almost any household is Silly Putty. While you can buy Silly Putty inexpensively at a novelty store, most parents will opt to make their own. Involve your child in the cooking process. They will love how putty is soft, deep and conforming to the touch. Pennies, Beads, Pegs and Marbles can also be added to the Silly Putty to broaden your child’s sensory experience. Actually, pennies, beads, pegs and marbles are all good discovery toys when hidden inside a cardboard box. This becomes a Touch-and- Feel Game after you cut a hole in one end of the box. Make sure the hole is big enough for a hand. Now invite your child to reach into the hole and feel around for all the hidden objects inside. After observing what’s in the hand, the child can place it back inside the box through the hole.

Box
Breathing games are also a great exercise for your child. Breathing is a naturally rhythmic function and can also be very calming. Party blowers are ideal for such excercises with the added bonus of cause-effect stimulation with every inhalation and exhalation. If you don’t happen to have any left over party blowers, an alternative breathing game can be made with a Straw and a Cotton Ball. Make sure your child is laid flat with his stomach on the ground. Place a straw in your child’s mouth and ask him or her to deeply inhale and exhale to move the cotton ball. Use more than one cotton ball and make a game of it by challenging the child to control how far they can push the cotton ball.

Straw

Finding the right items and creating the right games will be a trial and error process. Success will depend largely on the habits of your child, so you’ll have to be creative as you find inexpensive home items that will work best for your child. For additional ideas you can schedule a visit to our Lending Library and try out many of the Sensory Items that are available on the market. Call us at 716-631-5777 to talk about the sensory needs of your child.

Autistic Services Inc.

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