Many children on the spectrum may experience sensory issues to some degree or another. It is important to try to establish what sensory issues your child may have in order to address these issues. Sensory issues can result in sensory overload and behaviours that may, at first, seem odd or strange.
We basically have seven senses.
- Vestibular (the sense of movement)
- Proprioceptive (the sense of ‘position’ of your body in space and the input from muscles and joints to the brain)
An individual with sensory issues may be hypersensitive (over sensitive) or hyposensitive (under sensitive) in any one of these areas, in some of these areas or in all of these areas.
When an individual is over-sensitive to certain sensory stimuli he/she may seek to avoid that stimuli or become agitated and over whelmed if they are unable to avoid it or are exposed to it.
When an individual is under-sensitive to certain sensory stimuli he/she may sensory seek i.e. actively seek out activities and sensation to re address their sensory balance.
It is also possible that an individual may be both over-sensitive and under-sensitive at the same time E.G. a light touch may be deeply uncomfortable but a firm hug may be deeply comfortable.
Please find a full checklist of the types of behaviours that may indicate sensory issues in your child. Sensory Processing Checklist
Providing a sensory diet and addressing any possible sensory issues can greatly reduce sensory overload and may improve certain behaviours.
Please find below a few ideas of strategies that may be helpful for some sensory issues. This is a very large topic in itself and so more detailed research would need to be conducted by the parents in order to address all of their child’s sensory issues. It would also be worth asking you GP for a referral to an Occupational Therapist for a full assessment and sensory diet.
- Chewy toys for those who seek oral sensory input
- Headphones playing music for those who become easily overstimulated by noise and crowded places. The music should help to block out all of the unpleasant background noises.
- Carrying a scented candle, soap or pillow for those who become overstimulated by the smells around them. Again this should help them to block out smells that cause distress.
- Seamless socks, wide fitting shoes and cutting labels out of clothes for those who are over sensitive to touch.
- Wearing sunglasses for those who are over sensitive to sunlight, bright lights and so on.
- Always take a packed lunch, when you are out an about, containing food and snacks that your child can eat if she / he is a fussy eater.
- Weighted blankets and access to messy play for those who are under sensitive to touch and seek the comfort of deep pressure or the feeling of different textures.
- Plenty of opportunity for movement e.g. scooter, trampoline, peanut ball and bike rides for those who seek plenty of movement due to a vestibular inbalance.
- Regular access to a body sock can help those who have difficulty with Proprioceptive inbalances.
A wonderful article by the National Autistic Society that goes into great depth about sensory issues and really is worth a read Sensory World
Lots of sensory toys are available from here
I also found this book extremely informative when I was trying to understand and address my child’s sensory needs raising a sensory smart child