Autism, a disorder that creates behavioral, social, and communication challenges, exists within the Autism Spectrum group of disorders. Autism can affect the child's ability to integrate input coming from different senses. Sensory integration therapy can help a child by stimulating and challenging all of his or her senses. Some sensory activities for autistic children can also help a child learn to tolerate different tactile experiences. In addition, the children can learn to have fun while being creative.
Some autistic kids are overly sensitive to touch; some prefer touching and stroking soft, smooth items for hours. Many children with ASD cannot tolerate the feel of new clothes, or scratchy textiles. Still others pat and explore the faces of their caregivers.
Some sensory activities for autistic children include rubbing or stroking their skin with different textures. Use firm pressure to stimulate the deep pressure receptors and to avoid exciting the nervous system. Other ways of encouraging building tolerance to rough or scratchy textiles can include play with sandpaper shapes and letters, or plastic or wooden blocks with raised letters. Create a sensory board with clippings of all different types of fabric and other materials that are made up of different textures: sandpaper, string, smooth glass, corduroy, aluminum foil that's been crinkled up and then straightened out, and cardboard.
Another sensory activity to have the child perform is to play with colored rice. This project is both tactile and artistic; the goal is to help build tolerance to different textures while creating a work of art, which makes it a favorite of many sensory activities for autistic children. Take one cup of dry white rice, one teaspoon of rubbing alcohol, a medium-sized bowl and a spoon, aluminum foil or waxed paper, and three to four drops of food coloring. Use the rice:rubbing alcohol:food coloring ratio for each color you'd like. Put the rice in the bowl, add the rubbing alcohol, and drip on the food coloring, making sure to stir well between each drop. When the rice is the intensity you like, spread it onto the foil or waxed paper and allow it to dry. Repeat it with the other colors. To make art with the rice, have the child draw a picture or word onto card stock or bristol board, then trace the image or word with white glue, one section at a time. The child can drizzle the colored rice onto the glue. As with many sensory activities for autistic children, some kids may become overwhelmed if they have too much colored rice at once. Try placing a small amount of rice into a small paper cup and refill as necessary.