Indoor Activities For Children with Autism

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Autism is a spectrum of extremes. Finding indoor activities for children with autism can feel extreme as well. This lesson offers activities that cater to the sensory seeking and avoiding extremes seen in many children with autism.

Activities for Students with Autism

Many children with autism also have sensory processing issues. Some are sensory seeking - they seek many and varied sensory input, while others are sensory avoiding - they want as few sensory inputs as possible. Designing activities for students with autism should take into account this wide range of sensory needs for these students.

The activities here are categorized by their level of sensory input.

Sensory Avoiding or Isolating

These activities will not be messy and will avoid overstimulation of multiple senses at once.

Bead Pictures

Materials

  • Gallon-sized freezer storage bag
  • Water
  • Multi-colored beads
  • Hand sanitizing gel (optional)
  • Duct tape

Preparation

  • Fill the bag about ¼ full of water (so that when flat, there is just enough water to separate the sides).
  • Pour in the beads.
  • Add a squirt of sanitizer if you will be keeping the bag long-term.
  • Close, removing as much air as possible. You should be able to push the beads around by manipulating the outside of the bag.
  • Use the duct tape to firmly secure the opening of the bag.

Instructions

  • Students should move the beads around to make pictures.

Extension

  • You can use this to teach colors or math concepts, as well - just use a whiteboard marker to write instructions on the bag (such as drawing a circle in which the student should place all yellow beads).

Contemplative Senses

No materials are needed, but students will need a place to lay down for this activity.

Instructions

  • Ask students to lie in a comfortable position and close their eyes.
  • Encourage them to breathe deeply and relax.
  • Now, ask them to focus on what they can feel (without moving any part of their body). Calmly talk them through identifying what they might be able to feel (like the fabric of their clothes, the coolness of the ground or the softness of the carpet).
  • Allow students to quietly and calmly contemplate their sense of touch for a minute or two.
  • Move on to the sense of hearing and then sight. You can even allow them to focus on their sense of smell.
  • Spend a minute or two on each sense, reminding students to use deep breathing to help them focus on one sense at a time.

Calming Colors

Materials

  • Geometric-shape coloring pages
  • Crayons or colored pencils

Instructions

  • Allow student to sit in a comfortable spot (this may be on the ground, in a bean bag chair or in another self-chosen seating area).
  • Encourage students to focus on coloring, using the act of coloring the shapes and designs to focus their attention and lose themselves in the art.
  • This is good for calming students and for helping them when they are overstimulated by other sensations in the classroom.

Sensory Seeking Activities

Some of these activities are messy and should be conducted in areas that will allow for this mess.

Gloop

Materials

  • Cornflour
  • Water
  • Large bowls

Instructions

  • Depending on the size of your bowls, allow up to four students at each bowl.
  • Add 1-2 cups of cornflour to each bowl.
  • Give students a container with 1-2 cups of water and ask them to add the water a little at a time (in ½ cup segments).
  • Students should thoroughly mix the water and cornflour after each amount of water is added. Ask them to concentrate on how it feels as it goes from dry to a wet gloopy mix.
  • Once all water has been added, encourage students to explore with the properties of the solution they have made. They should find that:
    • When punched or hit quickly, the mixture will give strong resistance. It will seem almost solid.
    • When acted on with slow force, the mixture will remain liquid.
  • Encourage students to make balls out of the mixture by grabbing a handful and quickly rolling it between their hands. What happens when they stop rolling the ball? (It will melt back into the bowl.)

Extension

  • Add essential oils to incorporate the olfactory sense into this activity for even more sensory seeking pleasure.

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