Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often perceive and interact with the world around them differently. Sensory play, a hands-on activity that stimulates the senses, can be an invaluable tool for parents and caregivers. Through sensory play, children can also express themselves freely. This can be especially beneficial for non-verbal children, allowing them to convey emotions and preferences effectively.
Play-centered activities also play an important role in shifting their focus from unwanted behaviors to more constructive, non-injurious forms of expression, employing toys or preferred activities as their chosen means of communication. Besides, not only is play therapy enjoyable, but it also offers a wide range of benefits for your little one!
So, let’s take a look at the key advantages of sensory play for children on the autism spectrum –
Sensory play can encourage non-vocal erbal communication. Whether it’s using gestures, facial expressions, or sounds to express their feelings during play, it plays a pivotal role in fostering communication development and interpersonal skills. Aligning with this, group sensory play can promote social interaction. Encouraging playdates or group sessions can help children with ASD learn to share, take turns, and engage with others.
Children with ASD can struggle with sensory regulation, either seeking sensory stimulation or avoiding it. Sensory play, in this regard, provides a safe environment for them to explore and self-regulate their sensory needs.
Improved Fine Motor Skills
Many sensory activities involve manipulating objects, which helps improve fine motor skills. This, in turn, can help children develop daily skills such as writing, buttoning clothes, and eating independently. Likewise, sensory play also stimulates cognitive growth; sorting, categorizing, and problem-solving during activities like sand or water play can further enhance cognitive abilities.
Sensory play is known for its calming effect. Activities like using stress balls or sensory bins filled with soothing materials can help reduce anxiety and meltdowns. This approach also helps in sensory integration, enabling children to process and respond to sensory information more effectively.
As seen above, engaging in sensory play activities can be both enjoyable and therapeutic for children on the autism spectrum. So, read on for some fun sensory play ideas for your little one:
Create themed sensory bins with items like rice, beans, sand, or water beads. You can also add small toys or objects for kids to explore and manipulate. These tactile experiences can help improve fine motor skills and provide a calming sensory input.
Make texture boards featuring various materials like fur, fabric, sandpaper, and more. Children can touch and feel these textures for a tactile experience. You can also encourage them to describe the textures, which will further aid in building sensory awareness and language development.
Fill clear plastic bottles with glitter, colored water, or small objects. Seal them tightly, and children can shake and observe the sensory effects. In addition to offering visual stimulation, sensory bottles can also serve as a portable calming tool during moments of stress or anxiety.
Homemade or store-bought playdough offers endless opportunities for molding, squishing, and shaping. Through playdough, children can engage in imaginative play, build hand strength, and explore color and texture.
Engage in controlled messy play with activities like finger painting, shaving cream art, or mud play. These activities encourage self-expression and sensory exploration and can also be a source of joy while keeping the mess manageable. However, remember to use washable, non-toxic materials!
Set up sensory paths or walkways with different textures like foam, sandpaper, or grass for kids to explore with their feet. These paths promote physical activity and sensory integration, improving balance and coordination.
Introduce scents through scented playdough and essential oils to engage the sense of smell. Aromatherapy can also help children relax, focus, or uplift their mood, depending on the scents used. For example, while lavender can provide a soothing and relaxing environment, chocolate and vanilla aromas can be great for insomnia and irritability.
Create sensory stories by combining tactile elements with storytelling to enhance the narrative experience. This approach encourages language development, imagination, and sensory awareness, as well.
Inflated balloons offer a variety of sensory experiences, including touch, sound and visual stimulation. Balloon play can be both exciting and a valuable tool for tactile and visual sensory exploration for children on the autism spectrum.
While these play ideas can be super beneficial, you can also customize sensory activities based on your child’s sensory preferences.
For example, if they seek proprioceptive input, consider activities like swinging or jumping on a trampoline. For those who are tactile defensive, opt for less tactilely stimulating activities, such as creating patterns on the ground using wet brushes or squeeze bottles filled with water.
Remember that each child with ASD is unique, so always observe their reactions and adjust activities accordingly. Sensory play isn’t just about fun; it’s a valuable tool for promoting growth, communication, and well-being in children with ASD. By incorporating these activities into your little one’s daily routine, you can make a significant difference in their development and quality of life!
With our comprehensive and personalized autism care services, your child can make the most of the individualized attention and evidence-based therapies we provide. So, choose Early Autism Services (EAS) to be your child’s special needs care provider, and let’s build a brighter future for your child together.
Contact us at +91 8929153820 to speak with a clinician today!