As humans, we experience the world through our senses. Our senses are essential to survival as they help us understand and make sense of our environment. Sensory play and sensory stimulation are necessary for a child’s development. It is even more critical for children with autism because motor skill development can be more challenging for children on the spectrum. Sensory play stimulates senses such as touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell, movement, and body position. Keep reading to learn why sensory play is so important for children who have autism.
Children on the autism spectrum can experience difficulties managing their emotions, and these big feelings can sometimes lead to meltdowns. In these instances, sensory tools help calm the child down and re-direct their focus to the sensory experience in front of them. Meltdowns can look different for every child. In some circumstances, the child may have a temper tantrum, but in other cases, they may become removed and refuse to engage or display forms of self-stimulation, such as rocking back and forth, self-talk, etc. No matter the case, sensory tools can play a valuable role in the healthy management of emotions for children with autism.
When a child engages in sensory play, it sends signals to their brain, recording the experience and filing it away for future use. This stimulates their brain and contributes to its growth and development over time. The more sensory experiences a child has, the more they engage their brain by exercising it and helping it expand over time. Children learn to balance as they jump around, respond when their name is called, and taste new foods. These experiences contribute to the brain’s growth and prepare it for continued development later on.
Improves Social Skills
Some children with ASD have trouble navigating social interactions. Common challenges include:
- Initiating conversations.
- Responding to others.
- Maintaining eye contact.
- Interpreting gestures and non-verbal cues.
- Considering other people’s perspectives.
Sensory play gives children with autism the opportunity to learn and practice these skills. Since sensory play helps with self-regulation and calms them down, it can help your child be more receptive to new experiences, including socializing and interacting, while engaging in an activity in which they feel more comfortable.
Sensory play is also highly beneficial for a child with sensory issues because of its calming effect. For some children, feeling sand run through their fingers, playing with water, or swinging on a swing set is incredibly relaxing. In children who tend to be high-energy or hyperactive, sensory play is an important tool to help them calm down and focus when they are agitated or distracted.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.