Blog #83~Sensory Anchors
Nick doesn’t play with toys like most kids do. Having Down syndrome and autism has changed the playing field for him. He tends to use many of them to seek out some sensory benefit. For instance, he likes to mound his toys up in one spot…..
Even more fun was piling them on our cat……
The other day he was stacking random objects here and there around the house.
Why do kids with autism, Down syndrome and other sensory related issues play with objects in such different ways?
There are many sensory issues associated with having autism. Their world may get too bombarded with stimulus or feel unpredictable and overwhelming. Finding a way to stay grounded becomes even more of a need when the senses are flooded with too much stimuli. Often a child with sensory issues seeks out comfort in the form of a “sensory anchor” which helps them calm down. These sensory anchors can be a repetitive activity that provides comfort and is soothing for them.
Here are some examples of sensory anchors:
*Lining up toys
*Following a line with their eyes
*Sitting in bean bag chair or swinging
*Looking at reflective objects
*Rocking back and forth
*Rubbing hands together
*Chewing on sleeves or collar of shirts and other non-food objects
*Making repetitive sounds with mouth
How many of you have been out in public and notice a person with autism making odd sounds, rocking, or maybe banging on something loudly. These are ways in which they are trying to cope in the world by using sensory anchors. Nick’s include a variety of activities. He often chews on his sleeves and collar of his shirt. Other times he is rocking, hand flapping, and tapping or making sounds with his mouth (that by the way sounds like a cow mooing) 🙂
Nick’s first choice and all-time favorite is tapping a can of tennis balls against his mouth!
Second choice, doing heavy work vacuuming!
I realize that some of these are not acceptable in public, so I try to find alternatives for such occasions. For instance, I will provide deep pressure in the form of hugging to help calm him down. But around the house and in the car, I have to respect his need to do this to help him self-regulate. After all, everyone has some way of doing this whether it’s nail biting, twisting your hair, chewing on a pen, sitting while one leg is fidgeting to stay alert. We all find our own way to decompress after a hectic day, right? What’s your sensory anchor? Music, meditation, exercise, hit the hunting or driving range, X-Box, a bubble bath or glass of wine?
Bottom line, it’s important to provide opportunities for a child with autism and sensory integration issues to get grounded and centered. So if it’s a can of tennis balls, then so be it! That’s what is in my noggin this week.