Both of our ASD children have had a private Occupational Therapy assessment and from this we have discovered that they have lots of sensory processing difficulties. Unfortunately, we are unable to access OT support on the NHS in Bedfordshire, so we pay for this service, but we have found it to be one of the most beneficial things we have done to help our children cope with their ASD.
Our house is now a sensory playground with an assortment of toys from a rocking moon, spinning egg shaped chair, different textured mats to jump on, gym ball to smaller fidget toys.
I’m always looking for new ideas and this week whilst searching on the internet I found someone had made a sensory bag. It’s a simple thing to make which our youngest son has now described as his ‘calm bag’ to use when he’s angry. Fill a zip lock freezer bag with shaving foam and put gaffer tape across the top to ensure little hands do not open it and cover the floor in a mess! If you have a child who does not like touching different textures, this will be a way to introduce them to a slimy surface as they can feel it through the bag without getting any shaving foam on them. Our youngest son has been squeezing the bag and using it to keep calm when he says ‘his brain is angry’. To be more creative, you can add food colouring to it. I put red in one bag and our daughter said it looked like blood and could have been something from Horrible Histories, one of her favourite tv programmes.
Another creation I have made this weekend is a sensory tray from a large foil cooking tray, which I filled with coffee granules to give the effect of dirt. I added a truck, skateboard, a selection of small mosaic tiles, lollipop sticks and a spoon. Our youngest son has had great fun filling the truck with coffee, then emptying it out again, drawing patterns in the coffee with a lollipop sticks and banging it on the foil tray to create different sounds. He has enjoyed lining up the tiles in the coffee. Even our daughter who is 10 has been drawn to it and has been playing with the coffee granules when she thinks no one is watching. Children with ASD like repetitive actions and can find this calming. Plus the aroma of coffee is stimulating for the sense of smell and playing with the different objects may help with imaginary play.
Both of these ideas are cheap to make – I’ve used shop brand shaving foam and coffee granules and the truck, mosaic tiles etc are all things we already had at home. I think I have had as much fun creating these as the children have had with playing with them and I'm sure I'll soon be coming up with new versions.