Activities That Support Sensory Integration for Children with Autism

At Home Activities for Sensory Integration Intro

Why is Sensory Integration Important?

After their children have completed our residential autism treatment program, parents often ask us how they can continue to work on sensory integration and behavioral issues at home. They see that their children have made great strides, and they want to build on their progress. Fortunately, there are some simple sensory integration activities and exercises that parents can use at home to complement and reinforce occupational therapy sessions. Treatment for autism works best when all of the authority figures in a child’s life are working together, creating a safe but challenging environment for the child with autism to learn and grow.

Why is Sensory Integration Important?

Before we look at some of the practical activities that parents can use at home, we need a brief overview of what sensory integration is and why it’s important. Children with autism typically have some sort of sensory processing disorder. A common subtype of processing disorder is sensory modulation disorder, which refers to the mind’s inability to regulate, or modulate, information received from the senses so that the stimulation is just right—not too much and not too little. When kids with autism have sensory modulation disorder, they may have difficulty organizing sensory information or focusing on the right stimulation at the right time. Sensory modulation disorder can show up in different ways:

Over-Responsive Children

Children who are over responsive to sensory input become overstimulated, and overwhelmed, by the information they are receiving from their senses. Sometimes we describe this kind of child as sensory defensive, which means they are on guard against certain kinds of sensory stimulation, typically touch (tactile defensive) or sound (auditory defensive).

Under-Responsive Children

Children who are under responsive to sensory stimulation might appear lethargic, slow-moving, or they may seem like they have attention deficit disorder—when the truth is that the brain simply isn’t getting the stimulation it needs to engage with the environment or the subject at hand.

        Sensory Seeking Children

Some children respond to their underdeveloped sensory processing skills by becoming sensory seeking. These are the kids who may seem hyper, or who seek out sensory stimulation by repetitive movement like twirling, hand flapping, and bouncing. They may often push, crash or bump into things, and chew.

Sensory integration therapy is a cornerstone of our applied behavior analysis program at Springbrook because sensory processing difficulties are often the root causes, or the triggers, for the maladaptive behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder.

Read on to learn some simple at home sensory integration activities that fall in three different categories: Vestibular Activities, Proprioceptive Activities, and Oral Motor Activities.