Sensory integration is when the brain gathers the information from all the senses to help reach a conclusion or understand a message. For children who have autism, this process is often interrupted and hard to achieve. Parents and teachers who deal with children who have autism are always looking for new ways to engage the child. Sensory activities are an excellent way to begin to “reach” children with autism. It helps to bridge the gap with sensory integration.
Children who are autistic experience the world differently. Often they do not have the language or communication skills to help us understand what their perceptions may be. All those who suffer from autism do not respond the same way. It is a constant puzzle of how to relate to the child. Sensory activities are clearly good for children with autism. The great news is that sensory activities are good for all children, so every child in a classroom benefits from the special needs of a child who is autistic.
A great check list for those educators who are teaching children to help them remember sensory activities
Do my plans for the include the following?
– something the child can smell
– something the child can taste
– something the child can feel with their hands
– something the child can see clearly
– something the child can hear without distraction of loud noises
– enough activities to fill the day with opportunity
– clear visual schedule of the days events
Children with autism tend to smell and sniff most things in their environment. Use this interest to have the children practice some fine motor skills by writing, drawing and coloring with scented crayons.
When it is time for snacks or lunch talk about the way the food smells.
Use smelly pot experiments in the classroom. Children enjoy matching pictures of items to the correct scents.
One creative teacher used a scented spray right before the children came in from recess. The scent was fairly strong. She reported that after a couple weeks if the room was sprayed at another time, students asked if they were going to do math. She explained that help the children to know what was coming next.
Some children who are autistic are hypersensitive to touch. It is helpful to desensitize them by providing with opportunities to touch and feel in a safe manner.
They often examine a persons face like someone who is totally visually impaired. They feel all the features and seem to be memorizing the face. They will often do this over and over. They may enjoy playing with sand, water and mud.
Sensory boards and boxes are an excellent way to provide this experience. Textile sensory opportunities are easy to add with wigs, clothes, small toys, ergonomic squeeze ball and other objects. Make sure the items are not so small as to become a choking hazard.
Children with autism often need boundaries. They have no concept of personal space. Visual boundaries are very helpful. During story time provide towels to sit on. These are great visual tools and can be easily washed. Have clear charts with good contrast. Children with autism are distracted by glaring or very bright visual tools.
Children love music and children who are autistic normally do as well. They may be disturbed if it is too loud. Often time loud noises hurt their ears. Normally giving children an instrument is helpful to keep them engaged. A personal favorite in the sand egg. The children can hear it. The sound is not overwhelming and it can be held easily in the hand. Just use some of the plastic Easter eggs, fill them half way with sand and seal them with gorilla glue.
This typically takes care of itself with lunch time or snack time. It is important to talk about food and what is appropriate to put in our mouths.
Many may notice in this work that the term “autistic child” or “autistic children” have not been used. This is done with full purpose as a reminder that they are children first, who just happen to be autistic.