The words sensory processing, sensory integration and sensory seeking get thrown around a lot these days, but what does it all mean? Children with autism, and a variety of other disabilities, have difficulty taking in and processing information from their senses. This can lead to inappropriate behaviors, as well as difficulty with following directions and staying focused. The best way to manage these behaviors, that can often be challenging, is to address the underlying problem. Providing structured sensory activities throughout the day can help prevent these behaviors and give your child the input they crave!
Simple Sensory Rules
Figuring out how to best provide sensory input to your child can be challenging, especially if you are learning it all on your own. Here are some guidelines on how to provide the best sensory experience.
If it is not helping to regulate your child, it may not be the right sensory activity for them.
After a vestibular activity, like rocking or spinning, provide a proprioceptive activity, like the wheel barrow walk or body squeezes.
If you spin, always make sure to unspin in the opposite direction.
Start with a large body activity, like jumping, and end with a small body activity, like using putty or play dough.
Keep it simple and consistent!
Types of Sensory Input
Just like there are many senses, there are many ways to provide sensory input. Here are a few forms of sensory input that I use often in my sessions.
Tactile – touching or feeling
Visual – looking
Auditory – hearing
Proprioception – heavy work to feel where the body is in space
Vestibular – spinning or rocking to feel where the body is in space when in motion
In this world of Pinterest, I am sure you have seen many ideas for sensory strategies. But, just in case you are still searching for something for your little one, check out some of my favorite sensory strategies to use at home!
Putty or Foam – Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is my absolute favorite putty for heavy squeezers, and they come in fun colors for the visual sensory seeker! I also like to use floam in sessions. The unique texture is perfect for a “sensory squish break” to get the brain and body focused.
Scarves – I use these in session to rub on different parts of the body to provide light touch as well as deep pressure, depending on each child’s needs. I suggest rubbing the scarf on different body parts in time with some upbeat, relaxing music. This can help get your child ready for a fantastic homework session.
Ribbon Wands – I usually put these at the start of the session to get the brain ready and primed to take in information. You can have your child pick their favorite color then spin and shake it with a song of their choosing.
Parachute – I use a small parachute in session and give each child the opportunity to sit under the parachute and watch it move up and down. I play or sing a song with the movement of the parachute.
These are often stimulating activities. If your child is already worked up, it might be better to try a tactile or heavy work activity.
Music inherently activates the auditory sensory system. If your child is…
Auditory Seeking – I suggest you purchase a small set of instruments for them to jam out with to give them that higher volume auditory input.
Auditory Avoiding – You might try a repetitive, soothing sound to help regulate their auditory system. I like to use Tibetan singing bowls at the beginning and end of session to help relax my clients and get them ready for their next task.
Yoga Ball Squishes – I talked about this in a previous post, but a sensory activity that is a big hit in my sessions is rolling a yoga ball on different body parts along with music. You can start on the arms or legs and slowly roll the ball up and down, in time with the music. This provides deep input without having to put too much pressure on your child.
Wheel Barrow Walk – I used to love playing this game as a kid and it is a great way to receive proprioceptive input! Have your child start on hands and knees. Hold your child’s ankles and lift them up, keeping their hands on the ground. Have them walk with their hands as you hold their legs. You can do this in time with a song around the entire house. I like to take this to the next level and do a wheel barrow walk with the freeze dance!
Swinging – This can be as easy as going to your backyard and going on the swing set or taking a trip to the park. If those are not an option, you can sit your child on your lap and rock them front and back, side to side. I use a stretchy band in session to provide these swinging and rocking vestibular movements!
Spin Break – When I see my clients bodies are getting too silly, sometimes we take a spin break. We spin to the right for 10 seconds then unspin to the left for 10 seconds. Easy as that!
As I said before, always make sure to follow up vestibular sensory activities with a proprioceptive activity like yoga ball squishes.
What do you use?
I hope this has given you some ideas on how to incorporate sensory strategies into your home daily. Let me know your favorite sensory tools and tricks that work for your little one!
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