Two Tips For Improving Sensory And Motor Control In Autistic Children

Children who have autism have difficulty processing and coordinating information from their senses. This can lead to a number of behavioral difficulties that may have a negative impact on their health and development. While working with a pediatric occupational therapist can help your child learn the skills they need to better function in the world, here are two things you can do at home to also help your child improve.

Engage in Sensory Play

It may seem counterintuitive to stimulate an autistic child's senses when that's the very thing they're having difficulty with. However, certain types of play can help the child learn how to concentrate and better process the environmental data constantly streaming in through their eyes, nose, ears and other sensory organs. You strengthen your muscles by working them out. Sensory play operates with the same concept.

There are several ways you can stimulate your child's senses. Motion movements, such as playing on the swing and riding on bicycle, will provide vestibular stimulation. Crawling, jumping, climbing, and similar activities that force the child to use their muscles will help improve motor control and stimulate proprioceptive input. Compression activities, massage, playing in a ball pit, and being pressed by cushions, can help your child process a sense of deep pressure.

Be aware that every child will respond differently depending on their particular challenges. Your child may find some activities fun and others overstimulating and painful. Watch how your child responds and make adjustments accordingly. Additionally, it's important to vary the types of activity your child engages in throughout the day to prevent boredom and exercise all the senses.

Exercise Fine Motor Skills

Due to their condition, children with autism experience a number of mental and physical developmental delays, one of which is their fine motor skills. Since these skills are critical to being able to perform a number of tasks later in life, such as writing, strengthening the muscles that provide control over grasping and pinching is paramount.

Some activities you can do to help your child exercise these muscles include:

  • Making shapes with playdough or putty. Use bright colors to help stimulate the visual senses at the same time.
  • Using chopsticks, tweezers, or kitchen tongs to pick up items from the floor or table.
  • Playing with small toys (e.g. figures, Legos) that require the pincher muscles
  • Threading a shoelace through pieces of a straw
  • Using an eyedropper to place colored water into a bowl of flour
  • Cutting out shapes from paper using scissors

There are a variety of other activities that can help your child improve their ability to process the world. Contact a pediatric occupational therapist for more information and assistance.