Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Creating a Calm Space for the Child with Autism

Children with autism often find it difficult to cope with common sensory experiences. Their sensory threshold can be lower than the general population and daily experiences can be very tiring for them. When overwhelmed an autistic child may try to counteract over stimulation with self stimulation like rocking, hand flapping or stereotypical behaviors.

When an autistic child is overwhelmed its best to give them lots of space and quiet. They may need quiet time several times in one day. This can be a challenge in a small house, or a classroom. To make a calming area you can use:
  • A corner, blocked off with curtains or furniture
  • A large cardboard box, like one for large appliances.
  • A portable play tent.
  • A table covered with a large sheet or blanket.
Place some comfortable, calming items in your quiet area. Some ideas can include soft blankets, pillows, vibrating items, soothing visual items such as liquid timers, sand panels, or rhythmic moving motion lamps.

Limit visual stimulation such as bright lights or posters. If possible try to make your calming area darker and quieter than the rest of the room.

Allow the child with autism to go into the calming area whenever they are finding it difficult to cope. You could also allow them to do some activities in his quiet space like reading, writing or working in a workbook. Make sure other children do not disturb the child when he or she is there.

Keep in mind that this support may be harder to provide as the child grows older. As the child grows try to replace this space with more socially acceptable accommodations such as a chair in the corner of the room, rocking chair, weighted vest or small, calming vibrating item or visual timer.

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