Sensory activities are very beneficial for all toddlers to preschool-aged children, but they are of particular benefit for children with autism. Children with Autism have varying needs and display a range of different behaviours. Therefore, activities should be patterned according to their needs and according to their Individualised Education Plan.
Children with autism do have similar characteristics which includes: difficulties with communication, flexibility and understanding other people’s behaviour; many also have difficulties with processing sensory information. This is often called SPD or Sensory Processing Disorder.
So what are the benefits of sensory activities for children’s development?
Engaging children with autism in sensory activities is beneficial in several ways, as it can help with:
- It helps in stimulating the brain and improvement on sensory processing systems
- It helps in improving social skills especially in communication
- It helps in improving coordination, fine and gross motor skills
- It gives a calming effect on children when they feel agitated
- It enhances process of learning as many senses are being used (sense of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing)
The best thing about sensory activities is that it gives motivation to children. In short, these activities are perfect for typically-developing kids or children with special needs.
So what are examples of sensory activities for children’s development?
- All children like playdough because it is something they can squeeze, press, hold and can form into different objects. It gives sensation to our tactile system. Make it more interesting by having different colours.
- Carwash or Fruits wash
- You can get a pail or a basin and fill it with water. Anything with water play, children would definitely love it. You can add on sponges, brushes and cloth so they can pretend that they cleaning these objects. Plus, you can enhance their vocabulary while doing this activity. (words to teach: wipe, clean, rinse, wash, scrub)
- Home-made musical instruments
- There are lots of musical instruments that you can do out of recyclable materials or stuff you can see at home. Fill an empty bottle with rice, you can have a shaker. You can have a drum by tapping spoon and for on to a plastic container like pail. You can also create chimes hanging shells or bottle caps. You can be as imaginative as can be.
- Tasting Games
- Children are naturally curious and tasting games will be a perfect activity for them. You can introduce them different kinds of tastes. However, it is better to use natural food and not the artificial flavoured goodies. For sweet, you can let them taste ripe mango. For sour, you can let them taste lemon. For salty, you can let them taste real salt and for bitter, have them bite a bitter gourd.
- Frozen Toys
- This activity is a good way to introduce the feeling of “cold”. You’ll be needing more time to prepare for this but this will surely be an interesting activity for kids. Besides feeling “cold”, this can help our children know the process of melting. From solid phase, it becomes liquid.