Sensory Activities for Autism

Learning can be quite difficult for children diagnosed with learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and developmental disorders. 

Autism is one such developmental disability that is caused by differences in the brain that can affect the child’s cognitive, emotional, and social skills significantly. 

Associating open-ended play activities with learning and education seems quite unconventional to most parents. 

However, sensory activities and open-ended play are among the best methods to facilitate education during children’s early stages of development. 

Sensory activities are exceptionally beneficial for children diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder), ASD (autism spectrum disorder), or other learning disabilities. 

These activities are a great way to engage all five of the senses, promote sensory development as well as provide isolated representations for abstract and complex concepts. 

Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder can face hardships when learning through traditional pedagogical methods. 

Sensory activities are a great way of introducing children diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorders to new and unique stimuli and allowing them to regulate their emotional responses. 

If you are a parent or an immediate caregiver in search of sensory activities that promote holistic development for autistic children, do not look further. 

Here is all you need to know about sensory activities for Autism and their benefits to efficiently facilitate your very own sensory activities at home.

What are Sensory Activities?

Sensory play activities are any form of activities that incorporate components and materials that stimulate the child’s senses. 

Sensory activities often focus on isolating and developing each of the seven senses in children i.e., visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, vestibular, and proprioception. 

Generally, most sensory activities focus on developing the basic five senses of the child, however, with time and persistence, the child is also able to develop the senses governing balance and movement. 

As a toddler begins to interact with different sensory stimuli incorporated into sensory activities, they are able to further enhance their internal sensations called interceptions.

What is the chief aim of introducing Sensory activities?

The main aim of sensory activities or sensory play is to allow children to recognize, identify, differentiative, and comprehend the objects present in the world that surrounds them. 

These sensory activities are a great way to introduce and familiarize the child with new and unique sensorial stimuli. 

Furthermore, sensory activities involving effective stimuli also promote physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development in children. 

Sensory activities also promote the development and enhancement of gross motor skills as well as fine motor skills in children. 

Sensory activities provide children with the right opportunities that prepare them for performing different tasks such as self-care activities.

What are the benefits of Sensory Activities for children with Autism?

Children with autism spectrum disorder face difficulties in focusing for prolonged periods of time. 

They are prone to losing attention or concentration while working on a task, cannot regulate their emotions, and are often unable to work on a rigid schedule. 

Sensory Activities, unlike traditional educational methods, provide children with autism a great way to facilitate learning and overcome the said setbacks that come in conjunction with Autism spectrum disorders. 

To help you further understand how effective Sensory Activities for children with autism can be, here is a list of benefits your child will enjoy when partaking in sensory activities for children with autism:

1. Sensory development:

Sensory play activities allow children to naturally and willingly engage all five of their senses. 

These fun activities not only cater to the child’s natural curiosity but also facilitate the development of all seven senses.

Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders can face difficulties when concentrating on tasks for prolonged periods of time.

Sensory activities provide autistic children with just the right amount of stimuli that promote them to engage their senses and not become easily overwhelmed.

2. Language Development:

Another setback for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders is the inability to eloquently communicate their thoughts or emotions, in fact, some children with autism can be non-verbal. 

While traditional methods of education generally opt for rote memorization to facilitate language learning, sensory activities provide children with visual and tangible representations of objects. 

By physically interacting with materials, children are able to learn new vocabulary and expand their horizons. 

Furthermore, sensory play can be a great way to introduce imaginative pretend play to children. 

By partaking in pretend play activities, children with autism can easily develop their communication skills.

3. Fine motor development:

Fine motor skills are abilities that involve the movement of smaller muscles present in the hands, wrists, and fingers. These abilities involve writing, holding, gripping, and gasping. 

Sensory activities are a great way to facilitate fine motor development in children as these activities often incorporate components that are to be manipulated, moved, or maneuvered.

4. Gross motor development:

Gross motor skills are abilities that integrate the larger muscles in the body present in the torso, legs, arms, and torso. 

These muscles govern the movement of the entire body and often promote the tasks such as balance, walking, jumping, running, throwing, holding, swimming, etc. 

Sensory activities and sensory toys provide children with ample opportunities to develop their gross motor skills by partaking in activities involving balance boards and outdoor toys.

Furthermore, sensory activities involving outdoor play can also improve the child’s vestibular strength and proprioception.

5. Emotional Development:

Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders are unable to regulate appropriate emotional responses during a time of crisis. 

Sensory activities are a great way to develop the child’s emotional resilience by allowing them to independently comprehend the concept of cause and effect.

Sensory activities integrate effective stimuli that stimulate and develop each sense at a time.

These activities are exceptionally effective to develop the child’s self-control and indulge self-regulated behaviors.

6. Development of Social skills:

We all know that building social relationships with peers and other members of the environment can be quite difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. 

Sensory Activities can be a great opportunity to indulge in collaborative pretend play with their peers. 

These activities allow children to develop their social skills by collaborating, cooperating, and sharing their toys and other materials with their peers. 

These activities also help children develop the qualities of sportsmanship and turn-taking.

A list of the best Sensory Activities for Autism:

Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders are highly intelligent, creative, and imaginative, hence it is integral to provide them with learning opportunities that broaden their horizons. 

Sensory activities are a great way to familiarize children with autism spectrum disorders with unique sensorial stimuli that may intimidate them otherwise. 

These activities often isolate and develop one skill at a time to facilitate holistic development in children. 

Here is a list of some effective sensory activities for children with autism that facilitate optimum holistic development:

1. Scented Playdough:

Develop your child’s olfactory, visual and tactile senses by allowing them to play with scented and colorful play dough.

This activity is a great way of introducing new smells and acquainting the child with different colors. 

You can either purchase scented play dough from a store or make your own scented play dough by adding different flavored essences.

2. Underwater Scene:

Introduce your child to the world under the sea with the help of this underwater scene sensory activity. 

This simple activity is a great way of expanding your child’s vocabulary by introducing them to new sea creatures. 

All you need are some cute sea creature figurines in different sizes, sea shells, stones, pebbles, and sand. 

Fill up a plastic bin with some sand and add the sea creature figurines, shells, and pebbles to the scene.

3. Edible Sensory Bin:

Edible sensory bins, while they can be quite messy, are extremely fun for children to play with. 

Pick two or three food items, for example, oatmeal, trail mix, cereal, beans, tapioca pearls, or rice and place them in either a plastic bowl or a roasting tray to create a controlled activity environment. 

Allow your child to experience new tactile sensations by interacting with different food items and develop an understanding of different shapes, sizes, dimensions, and textures.

4. Calming Bottles:

Calming bottles is a great way to facilitate visual stimulation in children. These bottles are great for children diagnosed with autism as they help develop self-regulative behavior. 

It is as simple as filling up a clear plastic bottle with different colors, objects, and glitters to provide a beautiful visual experience. 

Children can use a claiming bottle when they are feeling annoyed, agitated, or overwhelmed to recuperate and redirect their minds.

5. Sand Table:

Sand Table is a great sensory activity that provides children with an amazing tactile experience. 

All you need is sand, a clear bucket, some small objects to hide, shovels, sieves, and molds. 

Promote your child to go on a treasure hunt and create their own sand castles with the help of this amazing and creative sensory activity.

6. Colorful slime:

What better way to promote sensory development than by introducing smooth, shiny, and colorful slime?

Slime is a great way to promote sensory play without making a mess at home, which helps develop tactile senses in children.

7. Window painting with Shaving Cream:

Are you in search of a sensory activity that gets your hands dirty but not your house?

If yes, then the window painting with shaving cream sensory activity is meant for you and your child. 

This fun and exciting activity is easy to whip up as all you need is shaving cream, a window, some food coloring, and definitely a creative imagination. 

Allow your child to create their own three-dimensional paintings on a window with different colored shaving cream foam.

8. Pouring station:

Pouring activities are a great way to develop fine motor skills and concentration in children. 

All you need to facilitate this activity is a simple bin, different size measuring cups, bowls, cups, glasses, ice trays, and water. 

For a better visual experience, you can also add some vibrant food coloring to the water. 

Allow your child to pick up water from the bin from different cups, trays, or glasses, and pour the water back into the bin.

9. Mud Kitchen:

Mud kitchens are great sensory toys that facilitate outdoor open-ended imaginative play for children. 

You can either use household child-safe utensils to facilitate this activity or purchase a ready-made mud kitchen from a store.

10. Shape Sorting:

Shape-sorting sensory activities help develop computing, categorizing, identifying, and fine motor skills in children. 

It is as simple as finding pairs of toys with similar shapes and sizes and promoting the child to match the toys with their corresponding pair. 

This activity is the best way to develop focus and concentration in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.