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Sensory and Physical Needs

Sensory and Physical Needs

Many children with ASD or related conditions will have unusual sensory experiences.  Sometimes this is ‘hypo’ in nature – they sense less, but more often than not it is ‘hyper’ and they sense more, which can lead to sensory overload.  You will know exactly what your child’s sensory needs are, as they will impact hugely on day to day life.  You may feel that it would be good to understand more about these needs and you will find a link to a website in the ASD section that deals with this aspect. 


Sensory overload can affect all five of the body’s senses but it is the auditory difficulties that cause the most problems because noise is the least controllable in terms of outside factors.  Often sufferers will wear ear defenders because they cannot control sudden and loud noises.  In direct contrast, some children find that a certain stimulation of one or more of their senses can help them to deal with anxiety and to self-calm. There are many toys, gadgets and resources available to help children who experience sensory overload that offer both protection and stimulation.  It may be possible that simple versions of these could be created in the home and would provide a learning activity as well as a useful resource.


Some ideas for this would be:

  1. Sight – visual calming can be provided via sunglasses that can be customised with glitter, stickers, small toys, etc.  Visual stimulation can be provided via a plastic tube filled with battery operated fairy lights or an old jam jar filled with water and a plastic toy.
  2. Sound – auditory calming can be provided via ear defenders made from old socks, filled with any dried pulses or rice (double wrapped inside plastic bags) and attached to elastic or an old headband.  Auditory stimulation can be provided via a recording of favourite sounds or a mix of music tracks.
  3. Touch – tactile calming can be provided via a range of preferred textiles that can be stuck to a cube or ball and via weighted objects like an old cushion cover or pillow case that can be filled in the same way as the socks for the ear defenders. Tactile stimulation can be provided via baking activities like rolling out pastry or kneading dough and playing in a sand or water tray.
  4. Taste – it is very difficult to encourage trying foods that have always been a battle, but there is evidence that sometimes this can be overcome when the child has cooked the food themselves.  Try in the first instance to suggest making something for the rest of the family to enjoy and then see if this will lead to being a little more adventurous.
  5. Smell – don’t try to encourage getting used to smells that your child finds difficult as this difficulty will be extremely upsetting for them – just encourage the enjoyment of good smells and create these for their enjoyment.

Within this category are also vestibular, proprioceptive and interoceptive sensitivity.  Vestibular sensitivity is associated with balance and eye movement, proprioceptive sensitivity is associated with external body sense and interoceptive sensitivity is associated with internal body sense.

The following website will give you further information on these aspects