Sensory processing issues fall into 2 categories - overreactive and underreactive – and children on the Autism spectrum can experience both at different times. So there are times when your Asperger child may seem to be “super-charged” and requires calming down, or alternately when he’s “sluggish” and he needs more stimulation.
The tricky part for parents/teachers is to be able to recognize which state the child is in and then to modify sensory input to help him create a more even state.
We can help a child transition from being either overreactive or underreactive with a range of sensory activities, often referred to as a “sensory diet”.
Examples of proprioceptive input:-
Wrapping in a blanket
Pushing or pulling something weighted (vacuuming, washing basket of wet clothes, wheelbarrow, mower)
Carrying a backpack
Examples of vestibular input:-
Spinning, swinging, hanging upside down
Rolling down a grassy hill
Examples of visual input:-
Use solid colours (rather than patterns) for walls and floor
Avoid clutter/busy areas (cover with curtain or place in storage containers)
Add brightly coloured objects
Use balls that light up when moving
Examples of tactile input:-
Texture play e.g. shaving cream, sand, glitter glue, playdough
Walking barefoot on grass/sand
Hobbies e.g. sew, crochet, scrapbooking, clay sculpture
Examples of auditory input:-
Listening to nature sounds e.g. beach, rain, thunder, birds
Playing a listening game
For children who are frightened by particular sounds, giving them control over when the sounds happen may help them to overcome their fear e.g. letting him turn the vacuum cleaner on; or burst balloons
Examples of olfactory input:-
Explore smells and find what your Asperger child likes and dislikes, which ones calm or invigorate him, however be careful with lavender as it’s a common dislike in ASD children.
Examples of taste input:-
Use strong tastes to help arouse taste sensations
Offer strong tasting foods prior to trying a new food with your Asperger child e.g. peppermints, sour candy as it should make him more receptive to trying a new, blander food (although some ASD children become extremely “hyped” by peppermint flavor, so try at your own risk!)
Stimulate his oral sensitivity by using an electric toothbrush
As the sense of taste is strongly linked to the sense of smell you may want to engage your child in some taste games e.g. offer a range of flavoured sweets to a blindfolded child and have him guess the flavor – you may be amazed at how accurate his answers are.
Have your child cook with you – more than just simple recipes (Aspies are very good at following procedures) and gently encourage them to taste their finished article – this can help expand their diets considerably.
Examining sensory input at a micro-level like this may seem daunting at first, but with practice and focus on the child’s behavior/response you’ll be able to redirect and/or avoid escalating behaviours, and you’ll have a happier ASD child!