My eleven year old son, Austin, was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) at six years old. Since then, he has been kicked out of two schools due to his behavior and many teachers don’t “understand” him. Many of his symptoms mirror those of Asperger’s Syndrome which is on the Autism Spectrum. Austin has trouble with sensory integration. People, especially children, within the Autism Spectrum do well with a sensory room. Since Austin shows many of the same symptoms as a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I have undertaken the task of creating a sensory room for him.
To list just a few of his problems with sensory integration:
- Austin makes me cut out the tags from all his clothing.
- If his socks aren’t adjusted just right he’ll spend the next twenty minutes fixing them; whether he’s going to be late for school or not.
- Cannot wear turtlenecks or anything else close to his throat.
- Prefers to only wear his boxers around the house. He usually strips down to his boxer shorts as soon as he walks in the door.
- He overreacts to sudden loud noises or too much noise at one time.
- He talks excessively, loudly, and without concern of the other person’s interest in the subject.
- When he’s bored or aggravated he swings his arms or spins in a chair. It seems to calm him down.
- Whenever he tells me or someone else what he likes he then turns to me and says, “right mom,” even though he has stated this multiple times. He needs constant feedback and redirection.
- If things aren’t done a certain way he becomes easily frustrated.
- He doesn’t like to be hugged unless it’s from me. However, it’s limited contact.
- Does not like to be around a lot of people.
- He loves vibrating or strong sensory input.
Okay so it’s a longer list than you expected. That’s only part of the list. There’s so much more. But, I’ll spare you any further details.
A sensory room is very good for children and adults with sensory processing disorders. It is usually tailored to an individual’s sensory needs to either calm or stimulate them and usually includes equipment or items that calm or stimulate the 7 senses (listed below). A sensory room should NEVER be used as a form of punishment. It is intended to calm the over stimulated or to stimulate the under stimulated individual. If discipline is needed, do not use the sensory room for this.
Senses and things to include in your sensory room:
1. Vestibular– swings, slides, balance boards, tubes to roll in, rocking horses, hammocks, or a sit and spin,etc.
2. Visual– Controllable light source, no fluorescent lights, Christmas lights (that don’t flash if it bothers individual), play tents, lava lamps, tabletop water fountains, etc.
3. Smell- Scented oils, scented candles (is safe for individual), scented markers, scented playdoh, potpourri or sprays.
- Calming scents- Vanilla, lavender, peppermint, and jasmine.
- Stimulating scents- Cinnamon, floral scents, spices, and strong sour or sweet scents.
4. Taste– A variety of foods, liquids, gum, or textured food is a great activity to include in your sensory room. Use supervision depending on the individual.
5. Proprioception- Anything that allows the individual to be “hugged” or comforted via pressure works well. Examples include: bean bag chairs, weighted vests and/or blankets, squishy beds or sofas, therapy balls to roll on top of them, etc.
6. Touch- Many things have texture; playdoh, funny foam, textured balls, textured wallpaper, textured puzzles, coloring over textured materials, finger paints , koosh balls, using various materials such as satin, carpet swatches, silk, lamb’s wool, washcloths, cotton balls, etc., massagers and vibrating kids toys.
7. Auditory– Soothing sounds CD’s, nature sound machine, white noise (ie. Fans), classical music.
I hope this information will help you or someone you love and/or care for.