Children with sensory modulation disorder can often appear over-responsive to certain sensory stimuli, making them fearful of movement or resistant to touch, for example, while also being under-responsive to a different stimuli. Or, these kids can fluctuate between the two extremes from day-to-day or become sensory seeking as a way to try to jump start their own sensory processing skills. Naturally, this fluctuation can be frustrating for parents who are trying to help their kids—but don’t despair. Sensory integration is all about achieving balance, and many of the activities you can do at home are effective for over-responsive children, under-responsive children, and everything in-between.
Vestibular Sensory Integration Activities
Kids with autism who spin or bounce are usually trying to stimulate their vestibular system, or their inner ear. The inner ear helps with balance, and it also helps the body know when it is moving and how fast it is moving. Any movement activity will engage the vestibular system, and vestibular activities can be both stimulating for the under-responsive child and calming for the over-responsive or sensory seeking child.
Some of our favorites for trying at home include:
- Playground Activities. Think swinging, sliding, and merry-go-rounds. These recreational therapies are self-paced and fun, making them ideal for sensory integration.
- Trampolines. Go to a trampoline park at a time when you know it won’t be busy to practice movement with your child. These parks usually have the trampolines built into the floor so that there’s no fear of heights to contend with.
- Rocking Horses. This is a simple activity for younger children or children that may be afraid of larger movements.
- Jump-Spins. Choose different objects in the room and ask your child to jump and spin to point at the object you’ve called out. For example, you might choose TV, Chair, Window, Table. This activity not only stimulates the vestibular system, but it also builds vocabulary.
- Pick-Up Sticks. Place ten objects on the ground and ask your child to pick each one up and place it in order on a low table. The repeated bending movement and inversion is a great way to stimulate the inner ear. Plus, if you use objects that your child is interested in, like toy cars or baseball cards, the activity can also function as a rewards-based activity.
Whatever movement activities you try at home, remember not to force your child to take part. Make the activity a game whenever possible and, if your child is afraid of movement, go slow. It may be best for your child to experience incredibly safe, gentle movements first, such as sitting on your lap while you rock or bounce on a trampoline or using a low swing, before moving on to more advanced activities.
Read Part Three of this series to learn more about Proprioceptive Activities like swimming and heavy work.