Sensory Activities and Products for Children with Autism

Play is an essential aspect of every child’s life. Through play, children develop prosocial, behavior, sensory, and communication skills.

However, children with Autism and Autism-related spectrum disorders (ASD), which affect ~1 in 8 children in America, have difficulty developing these skills. [1]

One reason children with ASD might have difficulty developing prosocial skills is due to their sensory challenges including over-stimulation to loud noises, lights, and touch. Children with ASD often respond by withdrawing, running away, yelling, or having tantrums. 

As a result, children with ASD often have emotional and behavioral challenges that neurotypical children do not. To support children with ASD develop sensory skills, their play can be adapted to use sensory toys, activities, and interventions.



Autism Sensory Products

Sensory products target needs including visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, taste, proprioceptive and vestibular senses. Sensory toys can be calming or help with a emotion regulation and adaptive functioning through structured engagement.

Playing with objects that have texture, such as soft haptic toys, lights, sand, and floor mats are common ways children build sensory skills. [2]

New research suggests that special clothes and therapeutic textiles with a soft or heavy feel can improve a child’s sensitivity to different stimulants. [3] [4]

Weighted equipment, such as blankets and vests relax and improve attentiveness in children with ASD by meeting their sensory needs.

Sensory Toys

Here are some great sensory toys from Melissa Finch and the Autism Adventures blog. Some of our favorite toys on her list include:

    1. Gazillion Bubbles for practicing breath control and calming down
    2. Odorless Therapy Putty to help build motor strength and dexterity
    3. Kinetic Sand for hours of scooping, molding, and building fun
    4. Sanho Sensory Sock for endless proprioceptive and vestibular sensory fun

    Want more ideas? Check out Fun and Function and this list from Fatherly!

    Sensory Activities for Autism

    Kid playing with lego blocks - Sensory activities for autistic children

    When children with ASD are overstimulated by their surroundings they can become anxious and act out. Like sensory toys, sensory activities are designed to help children develop cognitive, language, and sensory skills through play.

    Sensory play can have calming or engaging effects such as using controlled stimulation through sight, touch, taste, pretend play, and movement to increase familiarity with stimuli, and support the development of sensory skills.

    Solitary play activities include listening to calming nature sounds, music, or meditation. Parallel and cooperative play activities may include playing with blocks alongside or in conjunction with other children.

    One study by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that by incorporating activities such as balance, touch, and body awareness a child’s engagement during play can be improved. [5]



    Sensory Activity Examples

    Here are a few sensory activity ideas to help your child develop language skills, fine and gross motor skills, social skills, and self-control.

    1. Building your own sensory bin
    2. Painting with Cars
    3. Yoga Sensory Activities

    Want more? Explore the benefits of yoga for children with ASD or download Sesame Street's Guide to Creating Autism-Friendly Events.

    Sensory Interventions

    Sensory interventions combine multiple methods and treatments to reach individual goals for children. [6] Made and conducted by a professional, sensory interventions concentrate on improving a child’s reaction to different stimuli to teach self-regulation. The Interactive Autism Network notes,

    “An individualized program may include activities as diverse as drawing with a finger in smooth sand, swinging on a rope and jumping into a ball-pit, or crawling through a tunnel. The activity is matched to the child’s sensory needs, with an eye to creating achievable 'sensory challenges' based in play.”

    For example, an unexpected pediatric emergency department visit can be an overwhelming experience for a child with Autism, [8] but play interventions have been shown to reduce anxiety, negative emotions, and psychological burden of hospitalized children. [9]

    Sensory Intervention Ideas

    Home-based sensory interventions benefit children with ASD by supporting the development of their sensory skills in safe and familiar environments. [7]

    Common home-based sensory interventions include creating specific routines, keeping the house organized, following a schedule, and having quiet spaces.

    For more information on professional interventions, check out these resources:

    About Good Luck Yogi

    Sensory Products for Autism - Good Luck Yogi Meditation Device for Children

    Good Luck Yogi, or GLY, is a superhero from inner space. He uses the power of empathy and meditation to teach children how to breathe, be mindful, and regulate their emotions. With GLY, children experience: 

    1. Guided meditations and stories that encourage imagination
    2. Ambient nature sounds to support relaxation
    3. Calming breathing exercises
    4. Chromotherapy and a night light to help children sleep

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