Benefits of Sensory Activities for Adults with Autism
Autism affects how a person behaves, communicates, and how they interact with others. The outward signs of autism can vary per person, with some individuals falling onto a different place on the autism spectrum than others. As parents and caretakers become more aware of the specific signs their loved one with autism displays, they will gain a better understanding of the treatment and therapies that work best. For many autistic individuals, processing and coping with sensory information is difficult. In these cases, it may be beneficial to consider engaging in sensory play activities.
Here are some benefits of sensory activities for adults with autism:
- Helps to improve an individual's ability to process information
- Can help cease hypersensitive or hyposensitive reactions to information and sensory inputs
- Can help improve coordination and fine motor skills
- Increases the ability of the individual to practice self-control
- Helps calm some individuals with autism when they become overwhelmed
- Increases an individual’s capacity for communication and helps develop social skills
- Helps improve cognition and problem solving skills
Some adults with autism may react well to sensory activities, but others may become overwhelmed. Sensory activities aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but they do have potential benefits. Individuals with autism who engage with sensory benefits may find that they can more easily process information and have a better experience within their learning environments. And as more treatments and therapies move toward taking place at home, most sensory activities are easily created and experienced within the home.
What Are Sensory Activities?
Sensory activities are designed to stimulate a person’s five senses: smell, taste, touch, sound, and sight. Some sensory activities may stimulate just one of these senses, but other activities can stimulate multiple senses at the same time. These activities are intended to improve information processing, specifically as it relates to sensory integration. The ability of an individual to engage with sensory information can help further develop motor skills, increase cognition, and foster social interaction.
Sensory activities are commonly used to develop cognitive, motor, and social skills in young children as they develop. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget drew attention to children’s sensory skills when he developed his theory of cognitive development, which suggests that children develop in four different stages that focus on different types of learning during children’s formative years (from birth to adolescence). The first stage is the sensorimotor stage, which is when humans first begin to have sensory experiences. Since this discovery, sensory play has proven to be beneficial in children’s development, but also in the cognitive processing and social capabilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities, such as autism.
How Do I Know Sensory Activities Are a Good Option?
It can be hard to figure out if sensory activities are a good option for an adult with autism. ECCM offers individualized service plans for adults with autism that help develop a program that benefits and enriches their lives. Our Individual Support Plans (ISPs) establish a strategic framework for an individual’s care. These can be viewed as somewhat of a blueprint for your program and will contain treatment and therapies tailored to your unique, individual needs. Our program coordinators will work with you to determine if sensory activities will help you achieve your goals.
Best Sensory Activities for Autism
It’s very easy to create sensory activities at home, so we decided to give you examples of activities you and your loved one can engage in in the future. Keep in mind that sensory activities aren’t for everyone, so be sure to talk with your ISP support coordinator to see if these would be beneficial to include in your plan.
Sensory bins are designed to stimulate more than one of the five senses. To create a sensory bin, you will first need a plastic bin that’s big enough to adequately play in. Then you can fill this bin with a safe filling material such as sand, beans, rice, sprinkles, or even water. From here, you can add other stand-alone materials that have unique textures, shapes, or smells. These can be any type of material that you prefer, but some examples include bouncy balls, small toys, molds for the filling material, and small shovels. You can include materials that make unique sounds when knocked against each other to stimulate sound. Then your sensory bin is complete!
Finger painting is a simple sensory activity because all you need are paints and a surface to paint on. More recently, safe-to-use scented paints have become available options. If you want to use edible paint, you can easily create homemade paints using yogurt, a cornstarch mixture, or fruit/vegetable purees (you can add food coloring to plain edible foods). Finger painting can stimulate your senses while also providing you with a creative outlet.
Musical instruments are a great way to stimulate sight and sound. To create this type of sensory activity, you don’t always need to have actual instruments. Wooden kitchen utensils, plastic water bottles filled with beans, and metal bowls are all items you can find around your house that can be used for musical sensory activities. Try to use items that are brightly colored, if possible, to create a more dynamic experience.
Pottery play is a perfect way to help further develop fine motor skills and provide a way for you to explore textures. In order to interact with clay, you’ll need to use your hands to mold it into whatever you’d like. This can help both major and minor motor skills. Once your clay creation is finished, you can also paint your clay with colored, scented paints.
Old-fashioned puzzles that come together to form a single image are great options for sensory play, but you should also know that there are plenty of puzzle types out there that are specifically designed for stimulation. There are some options on the market that come in various colors, textures, and shapes. You can even invest in puzzles that have a higher level of complexity that will suit an adult with autism.
ECCM’s Services Benefit Individuals with Autism
If you’re investigating the benefits of sensory activities for adults with autism, get in touch with ECCM’s team of professionals. We will help you develop an ISP tailored just for you to provide your loved one with the best care possible.