Children with autism as a group are known to have auditory and tactile sensitivities that may range from mild to severe. In children with autism, the boundaries between sense regions appear to be blurred. As a result, they struggle to process and interpret touch (or any other sense) input they receive.
In some cases, signals aren’t modulated. Some experience pain when touched on the head during shampoo or hair combing or even clipping nails. Desensitizing a child to touch and pain can be tricky. Hence, it is necessary to thoroughly prepare the child through calming activities and by setting expectations.
Giving them some sort of control on the activity is also an excellent way to work on desensitizing touch. This can be achieved through incorporating various touch sensory play activities in their everyday routine.
On the other hand, some children seek sensory input such as deep pressure which is often provided by firm holding, firm stroking, cuddling, hugging, and squeezing.
Identifying and understanding your child’s sensory needs is the first step before introducing them to the below listed activities
List of Activities to Stimulate Touch
Making salt dough ornaments
Mix a cup of flour with half a cup of salt. Mix well and add water to knead the flour to a desired consistency to make different shapes. Involve the child in kneading the flour. Once done, roll small amounts to make different shapes. You can also use moulds to create desired shapes.
Being a cooks helper is an easy way to get additional exposure to new textures. Making a sandwich, stirring soup, making cookies, or peeling potatoes are relatively easy. Your role is to give the child control over their task and let them do it in their own time.
Stone Covered Jar or Cup
Materials needed: pebbles, a used plastic or glass jar, a container large enough to hold the cup; glue; and a cup of water
Put 1 inch of sand in the container. Put the cup into the container , scooping sand inside to weigh it down and hold it in place. Put a thin coat of glue along the side of the cup that is facing up. Place the pebbles on the glue and let it dry. Cover the whole cup with pebbles and let it dry.
Tile Mosaic with glass stones or pebbles
Materials needed: Different coloured glass stones or shells; an old compact disc, an old plate or square piece of cardboard, glue, cup of water and towel.
This activity is quite simple. First, cover the CD with paper and then glue the glass beads on to the CD.
Materials needed:Add half a bowl of shaving cream, add a decent amount of food colour of your choice. Have an outline of a drawing ready. Fill the blank spaces with the mixture. This gives a 3D effect to the artwork. Don’t forget to wear an apron.
Getting your hands dirty while doing a gardening activity is fun! Prep the individual about the process of potting. Involve them as much as possible right from buying a sapling, mixing soil to planting the sapling.
Individuals who like art based activities can be encouraged to do finger painting. Fingers can be used to create different artwork. Creating art using fingers can be extremely empowering.
Playing in sand
Individuals that seek sensory input love to roll in sand. They can be encouraged to dig holes, make castles, collect wet sand to build castles. Children might respond differently to sand as it could make them feel dirty, exposing them in regulation could help soothe their experience.
Individuals with autism benefit greatly from creating items on the pottery wheel as it encompasses all five senses, and it is a calm and soothing approach in providing sensory stimulation. It builds creativity which in turn develops self esteem.
Hands- On Activities for Children with Autism and Sensory Disorders, Teresa Garland, MOT, OTR/L, Bestselling author of Self- Regulation Interventions and Strategies