xMindsWire Newsletter
Subscribe to stay informed of xMinds events, opportunities for advocacy, relevant news articles, and regional programs, lectures, and workshops to help parents and educators improve the educational experiences of students on the autism spectrum.

 Image result for facebook icon    Twitter icon    yahoo icon 

"... the most important considerations in devising educational programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders have to do with recognition of the autism spectrum as a whole, with the concomitant implications for social, communicative, and behavioral development and learning, and with the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual child across areas of development."
—Educating Children with Autism2001

Intervention Strategies by Susan Stokes

Sensory Processing Difficulties

The child with Asperger’s Syndrome may exhibit some sensory processing difficulties that result in atypical responses to sensory input (auditory, visual, tactile, smell, taste and movement). This difficulty in organizing his sensory input, experiencing both hypersensitive (over response) and hyposensitive responses (under response) to various sensory stimuli, can cause him to experience stress and anxiety in trying to interpret his environment accurately. Sensory processing difficulties can also markedly decrease the child’s ability to sustain focused attention. It is important to note that the processing of this sensory information can be extremely inconsistent; that is, at one time the child may experience a hypersensitive response to a specific sensory stimuli, but at another time may exhibit a typical or a hyposensitive response.

Example: A child with Asperger’s Syndrome was eating in a restaurant with family members and experiencing sensory overload. He ate as quickly as possible and then asked if he could go outside. The child paced for 20 minutes back and forth in front of the restaurant while waiting for the rest of the family to finish eating. While riding home, he pulled the hood of his coat all the way over his face and tied it tightly, in order to try to block out all sensory stimuli.
Example: While watching television with his family, a child with Asperger’s Syndrome put his hands over his ears and exclaimed “That T.V. is driving me crazy”.
Example: A child with Asperger’s Syndrome exhibited an extreme sensory sensitivity to the sight and smell of eggs, particularly hard-boiled. The child gagged and vomited when exposed to hard-boiled eggs.

Sensory Processing Intervention Strategies
It is important to be aware of possible auditory sensitivities and how the environment might be contributing to the child’s marked increase in anxiety and challenging behaviors. Strategies to accommodate for auditory sensitivities can include:

Use of headphones/headband to muffle extraneous auditory stimuli;

Use of headphones to listen to calming music when appropriate;

Forewarn the child of any fire drills, tornado drills, etc. This can be done both verbally and visually (on his schedule). Although the child may appear calm outwardly and appear able to readily handle this change in routine, he may be experiencing internal stress/anxiety which could appear later.

The use of a daily sensory diet, consisting of access to various sensory calming activities and/or physical activities (as deemed necessary), which are scheduled throughout the child’s day. This can decrease his stress, anxiety and repetitive behaviors, as well as increase his calm/relaxed states and focused attention. Sensory “break” activities should be visually represented on the child’s daily schedule. Examples of sensory calming activities include:

Deep pressure (pressure touch) activities: firm hugs; being rolled within a mat or blanket; wearing a weighted vest/blanket; water activities; ball bath; massage; chewing, wearing a “Body Sock”.

Rhythmic vestibular stimulation: swinging, rocking in a rocking chair; movement on a wagon, scooter board, tri/bicycle; jumping; bouncing; vibration; or rolling in a tube or mat.

Proprioceptive stimulation: sitting on a T-stool, Dyna-Disk or therapy ball for increased focused attention.

Incorporating heavy work patterns (i.e., push, pull, carry) into functional tasks/jobs appears to assist some children in becoming more calm and focused. For example, taking the attendance or lunch room count to the office for each classroom; getting the milk cartons for the kindergarten classrooms and delivering them to each classroom; sweeping a walkway; carrying books back to the library; cleaning the chalkboard, etc.

Use of a “quiet space/area” in order to decrease sensory overload and increase self-calming, is another strategy. The quiet space should be a specified location/area with objects which are calming to the child (e.g., kush balls, books, bean bag chair). For children who transition to various classrooms, the use of a “home base” classroom, as a safe place to go, is suggested when they feel the need for calming (12).

Access to a “fiddle basket” containing small items for the child to manipulate (e.g., small kush balls, Bend Bands, Fiddle-links, clothespins, etc.), can help calm the child and focus his attention at certain times during the day (e.g., while sitting and listening to a story read aloud by the teacher).

To avoid sensory overloading transitions such as changing class periods, going to/from recess, or changing clothes for gym in the locker room, allow the child to transition a few minutes earlier or later than the rest of the students.

Reprinted from "Children with Asperger's Syndrome: Characteristics/Learning Styles and Intervention Strategies" by Susan Stokes, Autism Consultant for the Cooperative Educational Service Agency #7, Wisconsin State Department of Special Education. 

    Improving the educational experiences and outcomes of students on the autism spectrum in grades K-12

    Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software