In this lesson on Autism Treatment, we would focus on the different Sensory Activities for Autism. As parents of children with autism, you need to understand the varying degree of fluctuations in sensory levels that a child with autism goes through. Also, as autism in boys differs significantly to autism in girls, so does their sensory levels.

Sensory Processing Spectrum for Autism

Many children on the autism spectrum often fluctuate between sensory seeking and sensory sensitivity. Sensory seekers tend to be very active children. They love to be on the go and seek sensory stimulation that will allow them to jump, kick, and crash into things, push etc. Creating ways to incorporate these needs is a challenge. However, allowing your child to have a time and place for this sensory overload will allow your child to come to a calm and focused place.

Sensory Activities for Autism
Fig 1: Sensory Levels for Autistic Children

Sensory Activities for Autism – For the Sensory Seekers

Recommended Reading: Sensory Input In Everyday Activities
Children who are sensory seekers generally need prior sensory input for becoming calm enough to enjoy a family gathering. Think of ways that you can safely push, pull, kick, hang, jump and lift with your child… Dad can ask for help when he is working outdoors and have the child push the wheelbarrow.

Sensory Activity for Autism 1 - Get him to push the wheelbarrow
Fig 2: Get him to push the Wheelbarrow
Sensory Activity for Autism -Child Enjoying Bonfire
Fig 4: Involve him with Siblings in Bonfire

Mary Alexa, Autism Behavior Counsellor from the Dominican Republic says, “We have a bonfire pit for roasting marshmallows in the backyard of our therapy to involve kids with autism in schools. I often encourage parents to encourage the child help dad in preparing for roasting marshmallows. Dad supervises the child wheeling the wheelbarrow to the loading site and the child puts piles logs in the pit, one piece at a time.”

Once the wheelbarrow is full have your child pick up a rather large piece of wood and follow dad to the bonfire area. You will soon see your child running ahead of dad, returning to the pile of wood and carrying wood back and forth piece by piece. Your child has just had FUN dealing with sensory overload and will be in a calm state to enjoy the bonfire activities with the family.

Dealing with the Sensory Sensitive Types

Sensory Sensitive Autistic Children
Fig 5: Sensory Sensitivity in Autistic Children

Children who are ‘sensory sensitive’ are usually more sensitive to sound, light and smell which may lead them to react adversely to these sensations. They tend to like activities that stimulate the pressure points on their skin and help them relax. They also need resistive sensations to their muscles and inputs to their joints. These sort of sensory inputs helps to calm themselves down and reduce their vulnerability to subtle fluctuations in their surroundings.

The Deep Sensory Massage Technique for the Sensory Sensitive

Deep Sensory Massage - Sensory Activity for Autism
Fig 6: Deep Sensory Massage for Autism

My favorite therapy for this is deep sensory massage. However difficult this may sound, it is actually quite simple and could be easily practiced at home. Follow these simple steps:

  • Find a soft bristled brush.
  • Have your child sit in front of you, legs crossed and arms at their side.
  • Lift one arm of the child and gently begin to run the brush-up and down along the arm.
  • Run the brush over the hand from one extreme to another – moving back and forth a few times. Your child may complain initially but will eventually warm up to it.
  • When the brush runs over a joint (ankle, elbow, the shoulder region, etc), apply a little more pressure with the brush.
  • Have the child lay flat on the floor and rub their tummy with the brush. Note: You will be surprised to find your child relaxed and not giggling at the tummy brushing.
  • While they are lying down, go back to the arm and put your hand between the floor and the back of their shoulders
  • Give a gentle push making a circle around the shoulder joint
  • Repeat this process for the shoulders, knees, ankles, and wrists.

At the end of this exercise, your child should be much more relaxed!

Relaxed Sleeping Autistic Child
Fig 7: The Child would be Relaxed enough to Sleep

Once this is accomplished have the child move to a comfortable chair or to their bed for some story time. You will find them well on their way to sleep before you even finish reading the first few pages. This in-home therapy for autism is great, particularly for naps and bedtime.

This is one of the easiest sensory activities for autism. The methods work for both, the sensory seekers, and the sensory sensitive children. Though it might be a bit tedious the first few times, both for the parent and the child, it is still one of the few activities for autistic children that could be done at home. Time and money spent on occupational therapy for autism makes sense only when it can’t be accomplished at home.


Mary Alexa
Mary Alexa

Hello everyone my name is Mary. I studied at University of Michigan under Dr. Richard Solomon, founder of the P.L.A.Y. Project for Children on the Autism Spectrum. I live in the Dominican Republic working at an International School with children on the autism spectrum. Empowering parents with knowledge and techniques to support their children’s needs as well as the needs of the entire family and community has been my main focus for the past seven years. Read More

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