Sensory Activities for “Stimming” behaviors


I had written this post 5 years ago and still today this is very informative suggestion for those who have children or loved ones with sensory issues.

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Time sure does fly by fast.  I wish now that I had paid more attention to the pamphlets and brochures given to me by the therapist and specialists.  In some ways, though, I don’t think my son was ready for activities.  Now that he seems to be understanding more of what I am trying to teach him – I revisited the pamphlets and I wanted to share some activities that might help your child as well.

One component of autism is sensory problems.  If you are NOT familiar with this term let me explain – most of us can process lots of outside stimuli such as: the radio being on, fans, dryers, pots and pans clanging, vacuums, etc. etc., for a child with autism all of this “stimulation” is like running your fingers down a chalkboard.  Their nervous system is not able to process and interpret the noise therefore they will retreat and find ways of calming their “nerves”, it is similar to information overload.   If you have been around children with sensory problems you may know that some of thes calming behaviors they obtain are not acceptable or tolerable.  A child with autism may run around in circles, flap their hands, lick the furniture or other objects, bang their head into walls, and the list goes on.

As parents/loved ones how can we help our children to learn appropriate behaviors to process and internalize their environment?  I will share some exercises that have been recommended to me by therapists as well as activities that we have used ourselves and noticed an improvement.

Some of the first things to consider when working with the sensory & vestibular system is that people with functioning nervous systems know where their limbs and bodies are in space at all times.  If I were to ask you right now where your foot is you can tell me without hesitation.  As my therapists explained to me that a child without sensory input may lose the ability to know where he/she is in space and time.    “The vestibular system plays an important part in our ability to interact with the environment.  It tells us how and where we are moving, if we are moving up, down, fast, slow, angular or circular.  Now think about times when you have been dizzy, and the whole room seems to be spinning – imagine that you are trying to negotiate a crowded hallway.  You are not able to accurately perceive the information about your own movement.  The receptors for the vestibular system are located in the inner ear, and are stimulated by movement of the head and input form the other senses.  This system tells us where our body is in space.  It lets us know the quality of our movements, and tells us if it’s our body or the environment that is moving.”

Depending on your child, you will need to determine if you need to apply calming or alerting activities to his daily activities.  For my child he has problems staying motivated and on task unless someone is working with him one-on-one, therefore, I try to  institute alerting activities.  It stands to reason then if your child is hyperactive and cannot sit still then you would need to instigate calming activities.

Alerting activities:

*Jumping on a trampoline or doing jumping jacks

*Hanging upside-down by the knees on the jungle gym

*Riding a scooter down a ramp

*Sitting and bouncing on a therapy (or any kind of plastic ball that is big enough to sit and bounce on; an exercise ball is great too)

*Standing and twirling in a circle

*Bending over with head between the knees

*Changing positions

Calming activities:

*Jumping on a trampoline or doing jumping jacks

*Swinging on a playground swing

*rocking in a rocking chair

*Sitting on a teeter–totter

*Sitting on a air cushion, therapy ball (or any plastic ball) to receive input during class activities

*take a break to do an errand for the teacher

*rolling slowly back and forth in a barrel

As I previously mentioned, I tried instituting some of these activities when my son was younger but did not notice any improvement.  Please don’t be discouraged if your child is not ready for these exercises.  The main point is to keep trying and find what works for your child!

Until next time! 🙂

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