Over the past decade or so, it has become clear that many kids with autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, have unique experiences with sensory stimuli. This could include anything from various textures to sounds to visual images.
There are many different ways people with ASD can experience sensory stimuli in ways that neurotypical people don’t. If you spend a lot of time with a child with ASD, you might notice they seek out sensory experiences. Some kids are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli and get overwhelmed while others are less sensitive.
Creating precise sensory activities for kids with autism can help in any case. For hypersensitive kids, the activities can introduce new sensations in a safe, controlled way. For kids who seek out sensory experiences, these activities will satisfy their cravings.
Depending on your child’s needs and abilities, try these ideas.
1. Create Art with Textured Rubbings
One way to help kids experience and get to know different textures is with the age-old hobby of making rubbings.
Start with a coin or two. Put a piece of paper on top of it and rub a crayon or pencil over the paper where the coin is. You’ll see the pattern of the coin come through on the paper.
Kids with ASD love to see how the texture of an item translates into artwork. You can do this with many items you find around the house, from rocks to some fabrics. You can help your child find materials for their rubbings based on their interests.
2. Make Beaded Jewelry
Jewelry beading has long been a popular hobby. As it turns out, kids with ASD often love it too.
Beading allows kids to feel the beads in their fingers and to explore different materials, shapes, and textures in their beads.
As an added bonus, beading helps kids develop and improve vital skills. It enhances their fine motor skills and you can use the beads to teach them different colors. Collecting beads is also a fun hobby you and your child can enjoy together.
3. Build Multi-Textured Structures
It’s common for kids with ASD to love art and have wonderful artistic skills. You can turn artwork time into a sensory experience too.
Instead of drawing, gather a variety of materials for your child to use to create a shape or picture. For example, they can glue sticks, fabric, and plastic pieces to a piece of paper or board to form a picture of a person.
Your child can do something similar by using items to create 3-D models.
Consider setting up a “craft box” where you can drop anything that could work for this activity. That includes scraps of fabric and other items around the house that you’d otherwise toss in the trash. This way, your child can grab the box and craft any time they want.
4. Become Master Choreographers
Many kids with ASD connect well with music. If that sounds like your child, you can turn their favorite songs into more active sensory experiences by helping them create dances.
Your child gets to exercise their creativity while also hearing the music they’ve enjoyed so much. In fact, dance therapy is often a helpful therapy for kids with ASD and may sometimes be covered by insurance thanks to the Autism Cares Act.
5. Choose an Anime Series to Follow
Anime is a style of Japanese animation. While there are anime movies, most of the time that you hear about anime, it refers to TV series.
Interestingly, many kids with ASD are particularly interested in anime. It may be because the animation style uses a lot of bright colors and fun sound effects.
Choose an anime series you and your child can follow together. Keep in mind that many of them are spoken in Japanese and have English subtitles. The subtitles may be too much for your child to follow, so start with an anime that is dubbed in English.
6. Take Up Hiking
Hiking sounds like a simple and straightforward activity, but it can be a very engaging sensory experience.
As kids walk, they can see and feel all different types of plants. They can spot insects and possibly other harmless wildlife depending on where you are. It’s a great way to not only give your child the sensory input they crave but get them a healthy amount of activity at the same time.
Like many of the other activities, you can start small and work your way up to more challenging hikes as your child gets older and more fit.
7. Go On a Sensory Scavenger Hunt
One of the best ways to help your child experience various sensory interactions is to help them see those opportunities around them. After all, the goal is to get them to be more comfortable in any environment.
A sensory scavenger hunt is a great way to do this. Simply make a list of items you want your child to find. For example, start with this:
- One item that lights up
- One item that plays music
- One item that’s soft
- One item that’s round
There is no limit to the number of options. As your child gets older, you can make the scavenger hunt list more specific and more challenging.
You can even tweak the scavenger hunt based on what your child is learning in school. For instance, you could request something that has a prime number written on it.
Choosing the Right Sensory Activities for Kids with Autism
When it comes to kids with autism, the top fact you need to know is that no two kids are the same. While children with ASD might react to the same types of things, like sensory experiences, they may react in opposite ways.
It’s all about getting to know what works for your child and trying different options. The above activities for kids with autism will give you a strong start.
For more tips about helping your child with ASD, check out more articles on our blog.