Guest Post by Danny Knight
Autism spectrum disorder is a term that defines a wide range of complex developmental disabilities caused by a brain abnormality. Kids with autism have trouble with non-verbal communication, social interactions, and activities that include an element of play or banter. They may stick to a certain set of behaviors while resisting any changes to daily activities. Click here for more information regarding the symptoms of Autism.
Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder may also include sensory processing issues with certain textures, sounds, smells, tastes, brightness and movement. Sensory integration therapy helps children with sensory processing issues become more comfortable by exposing them to sensory stimulation in a structured, repetitive way.
Over time, the brain adapts to the sensation and the child reacts more efficiently. A 2013 study found that sensory integration therapy is effective in helping to ease sensory difficulties in ways that improve daily function in children with autism.
While sensory integration therapy should be administered and monitored by a professional therapist, parents can certainly help when it comes to everyday activities around the house. Using feedback from your child’s therapist, you can curate your backyard to provide a variety of activities and exercises that help your child’s particular sensory processing needs
Hang a Swing
Children with gravitational insecurity often feel overwhelmed by certain movements. Signs of gravitational insecurity in a child manifest in things like a fear of riding escalators or elevators. These children feel anxious when they feel like the world is moving beneath them. By stimulating the vestibular system in the inner ear, swinging helps children with gravitational insecurity become accustomed to this particular sensation.
Before committing to a whole swing set, try a larger porch swing you and your child can use together. Sit in the swing and read a book while your child becomes acclimated to the movement. Once they are, you can move on to a more advanced swing or another option that helps them become accustomed to gravitational insecurity.
Plant a Garden
Nature and the outdoors tend to be very soothing for children with autism, so it’s the perfect environment for introducing them to new sensations. Planting a little backyard garden can be like adding on your very own open sensory room to your home. From the feel of soil, plant material, and water on their hands to the warm sun on their back, kids with autism get to become accustomed to processing various sensations.
Horticulture therapy also teaches kids about nurturing and caring for living things in a safe environment. If your child is wary about getting their hands dirty at first, outfit their hands with their very own pair of gardening gloves that allow them to work undisturbed.
Build a Sandbox
Playing in the sandbox is a favorite playground activity for many young kids. However, some children with autism have an aversion to the texture of sand. To help a child acclimate, a small sandbox in the backyard allows them to engage in tactile play within a safe environment. Provide plenty of tools that allow your child to use the sand in play without having to actually touch it– shovels, buckets, etc.
Show your child that it is okay and safe to play in the sand by building something in the sandbox for your child. Provide plenty of positive reinforcement, and eventually, your child will acclimate to the feel and you can feel safe going on a beach vacation next summer.
About the Author:
Danny is a dad living in Philadelphia. He enjoys DIY projects almost as much as raising his two children. He is the co-creator of FixItDads.com, which offers tips for home improvement projects.