Home modification for autism children with sensory issues is very important as it is therapeutic for meeting their specific sensory needs.
The term “HOME MODIFICATION” is used because there should be specific equipments and activities, to benefit specific sensory issues of the child.
The home must be tailored to one’s specific sensory needs, in such a way that it should be more relaxed, creative and flexible to meet the child’s sensory needs.
The first steps in doing the home modification for the child is by addressing the specific sensory needs of the child (which is ideally done by occupational therapists) and accordingly modifies the home.
There are certain equipments which can have therapeutic sensory effects on the child and it will become therapeutic depending on how, when and why the equipments or activities are used. The guidance should be given by a professional then only it can benefit anyone on opposite ends of the sensory processing continuum.
The point of home modification is to calm or stimulate an individual through each of the senses. Each child is so very different and has requirements but if they are observed they are exhibiting their sensory needs through different behavioural patterns. The main aim is to take what they already do and make it safer and appropriate.
The professional may only can observe him for few hours but the rest of the hours a day the child should be observed by the parents and should figure out, and go on figuring out as the time passes and their needs change. This will be a great contribution in modifying the home according to the present sensory need of the child.
- Be sure to include as many sensory experiences and “stations” as possible.
- Work on 1-2 senses at a time, for example, soothing music/visual stimulation while giving Proprioceptive input.
- Use the modified room as “therapy”, i.e., 5-7 days a week, 1-2 times per day.
- Do not force anything.
- There should be minimal number of objects to throw or break.
- Secure furniture to walls or floors to prevent it being tipped over.
- Put a bed beneath the swing or ladder so that if the child falls down he/she won’t get hurt himself.
- Be sure to keep all the items the child requires e.g.: water, snacks etc, in the room so that there is no disruption in the session while having the sensory experiences.
- Objects in the room should include soft bean bag, soft mats, big cushions and pillows.
- There should be no fluorescent lightings.
- Don’t use the child’s bedroom as they may associate it with behaviours and bad feelings and may not want to use it for leisure, relaxation or sleeping.
- Pay attention to your child’s reaction to various stimuli and give him or her more of what he/she is seeking, the best input to calm or stimulate.
- Watch for signs of over stimulation/over arousal/extreme fears.
- Keep away all the sharp tools which will harm the child.
- Always seek for the help of a professional because each individual will be having unique sensory needs.
Children NEED to move! For some it is difficult due to fears, for others they just can't seem to get enough. Vestibular movement (and proprioceptive input) can stimulate you up or calm you down. Either way, this input is necessary and will be a critical component to therapy. Following are some activities which can be introduce into the home:
- Glider chairs.
- Glider rockers.
- Balance boards.
- Tubes to roll in.
- Rocking horses.
- Bouncing ball.
- Riding vehicles.
- Body rocker.
Visual Input and Lighting
A home modification with sensory room should have controllable light sources and light therapy. Most importantly, make sure there are absolutely no fluorescent lights. Following are some activities which can be introduce into the home:
- Color cubes.
- LED lighting.
- Fibre optic light sources.
- Rope lights.
- Low wattage pastel colored light.
- Table top water fountains.
- Lava lamps.
- Play tents/huts.
- Glow pen.
- Shimmering curtain.
- UV rods.
There are great relaxing OR stimulating tool, depending how, where, and when they are used and which smells you choose (for example; while cinnamon might be stimulating, lavender may be soothing).For children who are highly sensitive to smells have them carry a bottle of aromatherapy oil in their pocket to smell when intolerance hits (peppermint often works well). Following are some activities which can be introduce into the home:
- Scented oil
- Scented candles
- Aroma diffuse
- Scented markers
- Scented play doh
- Eye masks
- Calminng scents (vanilla, lavender, pepper mint, jasmine)
- Stimulating scents (cinnamon, floral scents)
Taste (Oral / Oral-Motor)
There are two different types of oral sensitivities such as hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. Children with oral hypersensitivities - also called oral defensiveness - will exhibit many, or all, of the following characteristics:
- dislikes having teeth brushed and/or face washed
- has a limited food repertoire and/or may avoid certain food textures - especially mixed textures
- will take their food off the fork or spoon using only their teeth, keeping their lips retracted
- will gag easily when eating and may only get food down by taking a drink with it
- may exhibit signs of tactile defensiveness such as; disliking being touched, avoiding messy play - glue, play doh, mud, sand, finger paints, etc. - , or, may not pick up eating utensil or food with a grasp that involves the palm of his hand.
When Working With These Oral Defensive Children, You Need To:
- understand the mouth is an "extension of the body"
- let the child know what you are doing and what you will do next, and use firm pressure with slow even strokes... the more predictable the better.
- once you have reached the face, start with his cheeks, then jaw, lips, and lastly inside his mouth... progressing from least sensitive to most
- take it slow and do not force stimulation on any part he is not "ready" for... try it, just don't force it - severe anxiety or fear and gagging are signs of distress, not effective therapy - gently work your way through this no matter how long it takes
- lastly, remember oral motor programs and therapy for oral sensitivities may not be able to be worked on, or effective, until underlying sensory issues are addressed and sensory stimulation is tolerated
- In Contrast, Children with Hyposensitivities Will Exhibit Many, Or All, Of The Following Characteristics they love and crave intense flavors, i.e., sweet, sour, salty, spicy and usually become "condiment kids" may actually avoid mixed textures as well since it is difficult to chew and swallow properly when you can't "feel" the food in your mouth correctly they are the messy eaters; getting food all over their face and/or leaving bits of food in their mouths at the end of a meal they often take large bites and stuff their mouths, or even "pocket" food in their cheeks are inclined to not chew their food thoroughly before swallowing (at risk for choking) drool excessively beyond the teething stage and, they always seem to have something in their mouths; toys, pens, pencil tips, gum, candy, or inedible objects (i.e., paper clips, rubber bands, shirt sleeves and collars, strings...anything!)
When working with these hyposensitive children, you need to:
- Give them more oral stimulation activities and "appropriate" things to chew on; they will need to chew to feel calm and organized.
- Chewy tubes help children to keep from chewing on their hands and crayons and help them focus and practice biting and chewing skills.
- give them sensory stimulation activities prior to meals to "wake up" their mouths
- use oral massagers, vibration, and textured materials/objects for stimulation
- use a combination of relaxing input (deep pressure, firm touch) and stimulating input (light, quick strokes)
- choose foods with increased texture, flavor, and temperatures to provide more stimulation
- encourage the child to take different sized bites and have them "feel" the food in their mouth (if old enough have them close their eyes and play guessing games with the food)
- wash and wipe the child's face often during eating with different textured materials (i.e., baby washcloth, napkin, regular washcloth, paper towel with texture to it)
- use the following order for stimulation; start on face with cheeks, jaw, lips, then teeth/gums, inside cheeks, then tip, middle, and sides of tongue, then the roof of the mouth.
The premise behind these activities is to help their bodies receive regular input into their muscles and joints in the most appropriate ways so they can get the input they crave and settle their bodies down. These types of activities are imperative for children who have difficulty regulating their arousal levels. They are the crashers, the jumpers, the leg shakers, the ones that can't ever seem to sit still. Regular heavy input into their neurological systems will help calm them down. Following are some activities which can be introduce into the home:
- Weighted jackets.
- Therapy ball.
- Weighted blankets.
- Bean bag chairs.
- Lycra swings.
- Scooter board.
- Moon shoes.
- Hippity hop balls.
- Zoingo boingo.
- Magna- flag.
- Pedal cars.
- Large checker.
Tactile / Touch / Feel
Children need to touch a variety of textures and play with them to develop normal tactile processing. If your child will not play with messy items, it is even more important that you continue to find fun and creative ways to introduce these to them. Following are some activities which can be introduce into the home:
- Ball pit.
- Play doh.
- Funny foam.
- Textured balls.
- Tactile walls, boards and books.
- Textured puzzles.
- Colouring over textured materials.
- Finger paints.
- Vibrating toys.
- Tactile discs.
- Funky surfaces.
Some children may be hyposensitive or hyper sensitive to noises. If the child is hypersensitive then desensitizing the particular auditory stimuli should not be a sudden exposure to the stimuli it should be cut down into small steps until the child can tolerate the noise gradually. For example, if a child is hypersensitive to the sound of siren first step is to begin with a painting of the fire truck, then mother should try to make a sound like siren and then ask the child to imitate the sound then introducing the characters by a role play and by watching videos. Following are some activities which can be introduce into the home:
- Play in ball pit.
- Sound-eye masks.
- White noise machine.
- Classical music.
- Stringed instrumental music.
- Toys with different sounds.
- Sound pillow.