Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder exhibit different patterns of sensory processing when compared to their peer. A big percentage of children with ASD exhibit sensory modulation or sensory processing disorder. Occupational therapy goes a long way to promote, maintain, and develop the skills needed by children to adjust to the regular requirements of a normal life. As a part of occupational therapy some sensory activities go a great way in helping the children gain an understanding of different materials and in developing motor skills.
Some interesting examples of simple sensory activities for occupational therapy are listed here under:
- Sensory Salad
Make-believe kitchen activities and hosting parties with imaginary tea and sandwiches is a favourite among children. Encouraging kids to make their own “Sensory salad” is fun way for them to explore different colours, textures and process them. Materials like green construction paper for lettuce, black button for olives, red pompoms for cherry tomatoes give them a sensory experience and might even encourage them to explore more culinary palates. After tearing the “lettuce” and adding the ingredients, help them “toss the salad” with some tongs and then “serve” it. This entire exercise helps them not only with the motor and physical skills, but social skills too.
- Bottled Nebula
It is enthralling for a child to hold a sparkling piece of the mystical universe in a jar. Nebula is a colourful dust cloud where stars are born and an amazing classroom project for elementary school kids. Let the child tear up cotton and swirl them in water, as they experience the varied temperatures and textures. On further dipping the cotton in food colouring or non-toxic paints, the child will see how the cotton and the colours interact with each other. Help them create a nebula in the jar with these brightly coloured pieces of cotton and add beans, sequins etc and shaking them well for a number of auditory and tactile experiences.
- Creative Gardening
Quite a few children with ASD may have sensory processing issues and disorganization which can really weigh down on them. Let the children engage in some creative gardening and build their own rock gardens. This activity can help the child with tactile processing and visual perceptual skills. Mix up all the rocks, stones, pebbles, rice and coin. Let the child sift through this mixture and separate the coins first, then gather the largest of the rocks and place them in a fishbowl. Encourage the child to arrange the rocks by size and un-bend some pipe cleaners. Now use rice as “mulch” to fill up the fish bowl and “plant” the pipe cleaners. This fun activity addresses special needs related to sensory modulation, sensory discrimination and related sensory processing disorders.
- Shake & Make Music – Maracas
Some children with ASD are hypersensitive to noise stimuli and this particular activity can be of great help in these cases. Active participation in making and then using a noisy instrument can effectively reduce their sensitivity to the noise stimulus. Get the child some coffee beans and pennies & encourage them to pick the coffee bean up and smell it before adding them to a bottle one by one. Once the bottle is filled to an apt level, ask them to do the same with pennies. Now close the bottle with the cap and repeat the whole process with another bottle. Now you have two DIY maracas to play with. Encourage the child to shake & make music of their own. This 5 minute craft provides the child with auditory, tactile and aromatic sensory experiences.