Many children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities have poor body awareness and decreased motivation to engage in hand activities. They may not stabilize materials with the non-dominant hand and have decreased strength and/or muscle tone.
They don't quite know how to move their bodies effectively. They may walk on their toes with the head leading and look like they are about to topple over. Some people move fast when given the opportunity because it takes more motor control to move slowly and deliberately. In addition, moving fast gives them the sensory stimulation they crave (i.e. vestibular stimulation).
Children may tire quickly, slide down their seats and their palms may look flat because they don't spend a lot of time using their muscles to squeeze, pull or push objects. These individuals often love weighted blankets, vests, collars and objects because muscles and joints are getting heavy pressure sensory stimulation (proprioception).
Resistive hand activities also provide proprioceptive sensory stimulation. "Resistance" means that the activities require FORCE to perform them. Many children find resistive activities and materials calming, as well as strengthening and they become more motivated to use their hands.
1) Popping bubble wrap strengthens the fingers as children PUSH or SQUEEZE IT. Provide lots of squirt bottles to squeeze during bath time, too.
2) Velcro- lots of toys are made with parts attached with Velcro that are ripped off and then re-attached. Many children love that sound.
The photo shows some Velcro backed shapes that are ripped off the ball and then attached to a Velcro board on book stand.
You can also use Velcro to attach toys to a detergent bottle so that children can rip them off before inserting. This is developmentally perfect for the typically developing 18 month old toddler and older children and adults with delays often love it, too. (Be sure to use larger toys and closely supervise to avoid ingesting objects) I also like to attach toys from the commercial shape sorter with Velcro so that they need to rip before inserting shapes.
Placing and ripping off the red and yellow strips that form railroad tracks teaches children how vertical lines can fit between horizontal lines.
This helps prepare children for handwriting!!
3) Writing- using crayons or chalk requires much more force than markers. (that is GOOD) .
Working on a vertical surface also strengthens shoulders and puts the wrist in the best anatomical position to grasp a writing tool. Coloring on top of sand paper or fabric also requires using a lot of force.
Many children love to press into a gel pad to form shapes. Drawing in thick pudding or wet corn meal is more resistive than finger paint, although they are all great sensory activities.
4) Toys that involve pushing strengthen fingers. I like the foam puzzles and mushroom shaped pegs that are pushed into foam boards.
5) Children can push Lotto cards or pieces of plastic into slot openings in bottles. You can also use folded cardboard cut out of boxes or plastic from containers. Folding them first strengthens fingers and teaches the motions used to fold paper.
6)Everybody enjoys pushing a whoopee cushion!
7) Squeezing the Hungry Harry tennis ball to open his mouth is very resistive. This person is feeding him pennies. Mix the "food" items inside putty so that they have to remove it before feeding Harry. VERY RESISTIVE AND VERY FUN!
(Make Hungry Harry by drawing a face on the tennis ball and cutting the slit for the mouth.)
8) Opening up slap bracelets to wrap around a tube or inserting them into a container slot provides a special and weird sensation to fingers as they push and pull them.
9) I cut these apples and worms out of detergent and juice bottles. It take a lot of resistive pushing and pulling to insert or remove them!
10) Ordinary ring stacks become resistive when the rings or donut shapes must be pushed downward with force. The one shown on the left happens to be made by inserting a vibrating pen into a swimming noodle wedged inside a bottle.
11) One young lady I work with avoids using her left hand but she will do so in order to pull the lids off of the fabric while grasping the red handle
12) Opening knots in thick cord or pulling cord out of the horseshoe lacing board is very resistive
13) There are lots of sensory toys sold that feel great to pull. The photo shows me pulling some stretchy fabric that I tied onto bottle handles.
14) I tell my clients to smack the golf balls into the bucket opening. They really enjoy it and it helps them to be calmer.
15) Stretching elastics or rubber bands over objects is resistive. The photo shows bands stretched over a ball with fun texture, but of course use any object that your child enjoys. Elastics can be stretched over lots of things including the backs of chairs and your 2 feet....
16) Here is an example of a toy horse that has limbs to pull. When you pull one through the holes, another is shortened.....
17) Cutting: Using thick paper provides more resistance and makes it easier to control. Ripping paper or fabric is also very resistive. I recommend doing this during an arts and crafts group.
Some of my clients love to rip paper or crush it into balls and then push it into bottle openings.
18) There's lots of fun balls that can be purchased. These can be pushed into container openings or try filling socks with sand, marbles, foam or other items.
19) The lady in the pink shirt is stringing large rings. but first she has to push them over the squeeze ball (filled with putty)that I attached to the end of the string.
Sometimes, I attach a vibrating toothbrush to the end of the cord. If you use very thick cord or just tie a bunch of knots in it, the person will need to use a lot of force to make the rings go down.
20) I tied a heavy bag of sand to the bottom of this green watering hose. My client stands on it to keep it stable. Then he pulls the coil upward to make rings go down.