For a child with Autism, navigating unfamiliar environments can be a challenge, particularly because of all the sensory input they may react negatively to. Regular guidance on handling sensory processing issues is necessary to help them adapt and self-soothe. In this context, Sensory Gyms are a safe and enjoyable way for them to get the sensory input they need. Here’s a quick guide on how to set one up at home.

Understanding Autism

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a range of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect social, behavioral, and communicative abilities. Children with Autism tend to have trouble navigating social settings and communicating with other people. Tailored treatment for Autism can go a long way in teaching necessary social and behavioral skills.

Sensory issues faced by children with Autism

Many children with Autism find it difficult to process the sensory information they receive. This is what is known as a sensory processing issue. These are broadly of two types:

  • Hypersensitivity – children are overstimulated by various sensations and thus, actively avoid them
  • Hyposensitivity – children are understimulated by various sensations and thus, actively seek them out

In both cases, sensory issues can lead to behavioral problems such as temper tantrums, kicking, fighting, fleeing situations where they feel overwhelmed, and so on.

How a Sensory Gym can help your child with Autism Spectrum Disorders

A Sensory Gym is a room fully dedicated to sensory play of various kinds. It contains various kinds of toys and equipment to provide children with the sensory input they need, and helps them understand their sensory triggers better. Through structured play sessions in a Sensory Gym, your child can get the sensory input they need to calm down, which will help them participate better in other activities throughout the day. Play activities directed by adults in a sensory room can improve gross and fine motor skills, as well as audio-visual processing. Over time, a Sensory Gym helps your child learn self-regulatory activities and thus, boosts their concentration and productivity.

While there are professional Sensory Gyms you can take your child to, it may be expensive as a regular affair. You can, however, easily set up a Sensory Gym of your own at home. Here’s what to keep in mind before you start:

  • Have a clear understanding of what your child’s sensory processing abilities are like, as everyone is different. Talk to the therapist and find out what your child has been responding well to, as opposed to their triggers.
  • Choose a range of items to provide different sensory inputs. Weighted toys, scooters, swings, trampolines, spin discs, balance beams, steppers, ropes, putty, sandboxes, and ball pools are all good ideas.
  • Optimize the size of the gym according to the requirements of your child. A good option is to start with just a few pieces of equipment and then expand based on what they like. This avoids overwhelming your child with choices.
  • Involve your child’s therapist in setting up the gym, so that your child gets the same sensory processing assistance at home as they do at the therapy center. Consult your therapist about appropriate games to play and how to schedule them so that your child can learn at their desired pace.
  • Organize games for your child where you either direct the activities or play an active part in them. Doing so in a Sensory Gym is a good way to accustom your child to interactions with grown-ups. This way, they are in a safe and comfortable place. As your child adjusts, you can even consider having other children or adults over to play.
  • Keep the focus on having fun during every session in the Sensory Gym. Choose equipment that provides the sensations your child most enjoys, and pay attention to new likes and preferences that your child expresses. This will ensure that your child keeps coming back willingly.

A Sensory Gym, in short, can be an extremely helpful way to guide your child through sensory processing issues. You can thus consider setting aside a room at home for sensory input sessions, based on guidance from your child’s therapist. It’s a great way for your child to have fun safely. It also makes it much easier to look after them for the remainder of the day.

Dr Na'eem Sadiq is a respected stem cell specialist at Plexus, and a prominent neurologist in Bangalore. He studied neurology and clinical neurophysiology in London, and worked with some of the most prestigious medical institutions in England, and the Middle East. He completed his MBBS at Bellary Government Medical College, and a postgraduate degree in psychiatry from NIMHANS in Bangalore.

Dr Na'eem has perfected his knowledge and expertise in Continuing medical education (CME), and training in tissue culture, Stem Cell Therapy, and neurology. Dr Na'eem Sadiq possesses an undying passion to improve people’s lives. This led to the creation of Plexus, a neuro and Stem Cell Research centre in Bangalore in neurosurgery, and neurorehabilitation.