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DIY Sensory Activities for Autism: Part 1​

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By MHT Podcasts

Dysfunctional sensory system is a common symptom of Autism as well as other developmental disabilities. In this, sometimes one or more senses can either be hypo or hyper sensitive to stimulation and can lead to behaviors like rocking, spinning, and hand-flapping, irritability and hyperactivity.
There are three basic senses that are critical for our survival- tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive. Sensory Integration techniques or therapies of these senses can facilitate attention and awareness, and reduce overall arousal.  In this article, each of these sensory systems will be covered. There also will be a Do-it-yourself (DIY) activity mentioned to overcome dysfunction and improve functioning of these sensory systems. 

Misperception of touch, pain, temperature and pressure leading to refusing to eat textured food, complaining about having one’s face or hair washed or wearing only certain type of clothes are common in dysfunctional tactile sensory system. This may further lead to self-imposed isolation, general irritability, distractibility, and hyperactivity in children. 
DIY Activities that can improvise tactile sensory system:
Sensory bins filled with rice, flour, beans
Finger Painting
Play with water beads
Play Dough (avoid this if the child tends to eat from the dough
Some children with autism may have fearful reactions to ordinary movement activities like swinging, sliding, walking on ramps or inclined planes. In addition, they may also have trouble learning to climb or descend down the stairs or hill. This manifestation is demonstrated in hyper-reactive vestibular system. While in the case of hypo-reactive vestibular system a child may seek very intense sensory experience such as excessive jumping, spinning or body whirling. 
DIY Activities that can improvise vestibular sensory system:
Riding bikes
Jumping on Trampoline
Playing Hopscotch
Playing Freeze Dance
Under this sensory system, there is serious difficulty understanding where one’s body is in relation to other objects. Therefore, children with dysfunctional proprioceptive sensory system appear clumsy, knocking over things, dropping objects, stand to close to other or misjudge personal space. Sometimes, they can seek out for more sensory input like banging objects, stomp while walking, bumping into people, biting or sucking on fingers.
DIY Activities that can improvise vestibular sensory system:
Carrying/Lifting boxes
Kneading play dough (avoid this if the child tends to eat from the dough)
Skipping rope

Research studies (Schaaf et al, 2013) have shown that sensory integration therapy/techniques modulate brain’s reaction to touch, sound, sight and movement thereby improving daily function in children with autism. These activities with help the child organize sensory information in the central nervous system. It will also assist them in modulating or inhibiting sensory information. Moreover, it will assist the child in processing a better organized to response to sensory stimuli. 

Amazon Links
Sensory bins
Water Beads:
Play Dough:

Schaaf, R. C., Benevides, T., Mailloux, Z., Faller, P., Hunt, J., Hooydonk, E. V., . . . Kelly, D. (2013). An Intervention for Sensory Difficulties in Children with Autism: A Randomized Trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1983-8
Autism and the seven senses: Proprioception (Body awareness). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.autismtogether.co.uk/portfolio-items/autism-and-the-seven-senses-proprioception/

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1 thought on “DIY Sensory Activities for Autism: Part 1​”

  1. Pingback: DIY Sensory Activities for Autism: Part 2​ | Mental Health Today

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