Innovative Interventions to Treat Children on the Autism Spectrum

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Using Sensory Adaptations to Develop Hand Skills

Here are a couple of strategies from my book From flapping to function: A Parent's Guide to Hand Skills that involve making fine-motor activities such as stringing easier for children who have motor control challenges while at the same time adding sensory stimulation that motivates and meets their sensory needs.

This string has a squishy squeeze ball from the Dollar Store tied to the end. These don't last forever, but fun to squeeze in between inserting rings onto it.

I tied a bottle with beads and water inside that can be shaken after done with stringing the ring shapes.

A battery powered electric toothbrush can be taped onto the end of a stringing activity. The white toothbrush shown in the photo is taped to a long strip of plastic cut from a container. Its firmer and easier to manipulate than string.

The other toothbrush shown is covered with a decorative duct tape so that individuals do not consider putting it in their mouths. The "string" is made of a strip of stretchy cord.

Other options of sensory objects to attach to the stringing end are:
  • a Koosh ball
  • flashlight
  • flashing toothbrush
  • cat toys with bells
  • squeaky dog toys

These types of sensory materials may also be attached to the top of a ring stack.


As usual the rings are cut out of detergent and other types of plastic containers and they are not sharp. I can rub them across my face without creating a scratch.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Add sensory Stimulation with Pulling while Color Sorting on Button Board

This buttoning board was made out of a book stand with holes drilled into it. You can use any strong plastic or wooden surface to make something similar. I pushed elastic hair ties through two holes and then knotted each to attach plastic circles that function as buttons.

Some individuals are at a level where they can remove and insert them into an open container or a container with a slot to push into. Some of them have the motor planning skills to attach the fabric pieces and some of them are able to match colors. I love finding ways to combine working on dexterity and using a cognitive skill such as matching that they already they have already mastered and enjoy.

Some of  my clients really enjoyed the fact that the buttons could be pulled and snap back on the elastic. This gave them a fun sensory experience and because you can pull it away from the board, enabling them to  attach several of the fabric pieces.

Pulling, pushing and squeezing all provide  proprioceptive sensory stimulation to muscles, joints and tendons that can help with body awareness and motor planning.  This buttoning board adaptation provides this stimulation as they pull the buttons.  You can read about many other types of sensory adaptations in my new book: From Flapping to Function: A Parent's Guide to Autism and Hand Skills.   


Friday, July 8, 2016

Weighted Sock Activities

I have found some new ways to use my heavy weighted socks. These are made by filling plastic bags with sand and then placing inside a large old sock. You can make them as long or heavy as desired and I add a second layer of sock so that the outer sock can be removed and washed.

An individual was sitting in the lounge chair while I dropped several of the socks on his lap. He seemed to enjoy picking them up, walking across the room and dropping them into a box on the table. He was very focused and persisted for several minutes. He really likes moving and carrying heavy objects. It helped his body awareness and was something he could do successfully since he  has a lot of difficulty with motor planning any gross or fine motor activity.  At first I returned some of the socks back to the chair so that he could keep going. Eventually he caught on to what I was doing and he wanted to see the task reach a point of completion.

In the video you see a young man who is blind. He enjoys having the heavy socks thrown onto his lap as he tries to catch them. I taught a couple of other clients to throw them toward his lap and give a verbal cue that it is about to be thrown. This was great for promoting a social exchange and communication skills. The other client or I were able to keep this up for a good 10 to 15 minutes as we kept taking the socks back out of the box and throwing them into his lap again and again. Great fun for all.... 


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tolerating Water with wet Objects

My client hates to get her hands wet and refuses to wash them after using the toilet. The staff had been working on a goal to wash her hands but she won't even place them under the water. Her new goal is to tolerate wet hands by removing the balls from a container that has a small amount of water in it and placing them in the 2nd container. She has always liked insertion tasks so she is willing to do this. We will gradually increase the amount of water so that she has to submerge her hands!! Sometimes you need to be a little tricky.....


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Few Sensory Adaptations

My clients enjoy some of my sensory adaptations so much that they get mad if I try to rotate them amongst the program rooms. The ones that vibrate are usually the favorites. but here are a few more....

The gentleman with the cushions filled with sand has much difficulty to tolerate ANYTHING touching him. I finally figured out that I could drape a bag around his shoulders. It is filled with 3 socks filled with plastic bags of sand and the entire thing is inside a removable pillow case so that it can be washed.  I tucked a soft thick door snake used to keep cold out, around his waist and then the final cushion which is very heavy on top of his arms. He is learning to tolerate these items while his hands are in the usual position of wedged inside his legs. I am hoping to eventually encourage him to place his hands on top of the cushion and touch objects.

The gentleman in the lower picture likes the flashlight I attached to the ring stack. I figured that the clients who like to be busy during the relaxation periods of dim lights and soft music would enjoy having the light on and the option of manipulating the rings.

The gentleman in the video is using an insertion container that has a door jamb spring attached to the top. I bought it on Amazon for a dollar and I wound the bottom of the springy part through a hole in the lid and then duct taped. I didn't catch it in the video but he stabilized the container a few times while snapping the spring and this made him interested in the activity.

The other gentleman in the video has a lot of energy and loves the sensation of rolling the ball around. I found a tether ball and was able to wrap it tightly around the table to use in this way.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Stabilizing with the Non-functional Hand

My client does not use his left hand, it is relatively weak and he requires assistance to use it to grasp. However, this adaptation enabled him to use it to the best of his ability to stabilize the ring stack. I wedged the tube into the bottom of the container so that he can grasp it from the horizontal orientation and I used the Easyhold strap to hold his hand in place. (the company gave me a few to try out). He was able to place rings on top of the dowel after I found just the right height for him to  be able to reach. reach. His left hand actually did help to stabilize the container after setting him up...

Friday, April 15, 2016

Client Shaking sensory stimulation objects on Ipad holder attached to Tray

I was given a gooseneck Ipad holder that attaches to a tray with a C-clamp. I wanted to use it to help a client be able to shake objects that she has difficulty controlling when they are lower on her tray. I covered all of the parts that hold the Ipad with fabric, duct tape, tubing  so that there were no sharp edges. then I added yam and other pretty dangly things. but best of all was attaching the Brainy Baby Toy that her sister had purchased for her. It has a spring inside that vibrates when pulled and no batteries which is great... I know that this lady loves vibration and to pull objects and this was much easier to do when the pulling was from up above rather than across her tray. Also she has difficulty grasping for longer periods of time so I attached the   strap to keep her hand inside. She is able to pull her hand out at any point and she did after about 10 minutes. So I alternated between using her right and left hand with the strap and time to touch without using the strap.  You can see in the video how excited she is the be able to pull for more than her usual few seconds....