Many of you may know that Autism often comes with Sensory Integration issues. At least it does in our house. Because of that, I have learned several tricks that help calm or regulate my son. And today I am going to share my favorites. They are easy to do at home, and you can even make your own sensory room for not much money.
My favorite is the ball pit we saw at our Occupational Therapist’s office. But there is no way one this big would fit in our house. But I have to show you a picture. Isn’t it beautiful? I want to dive in!
So I fashioned what my friend calls a “Washing Machine” out of an empty bean bag (designed for stuffed animal storage), and some ball pit balls. It is a lot of fun! My son climbs inside with the balls, and we lift the sides and shake them back and forth like a washing machine. You can also make your ball pit out of an inflatable pool. There are several ways. I found this one below online. They made it out of PVC pipe. How cool! As long as you have enough balls to make the person feel surrounded you are golden.
Light Wall, Or Light feature
Another awesome sensory item I loved from the OT’s office was a light wall. Of course, theirs is expensive and professional. But Pinterest has some great ideas to make one similar. I love taking fairy lights and creating this same zig-zag pattern without the pictures. I used micro fairy lights for our house so the lights weren’t too bright to look at when they are all up together.
The singular life-changing sensory item in our house is a swing I hung from the ceiling. It is made of aerial yoga silks tied to large Carabiners. Be sure you reinforce your joists when you do this. Because the swinging motion will mess with your house structure if not.
My son is in this swing every day. He can fit his whole body in it, twist himself in a knot, and feel a whole body squeeze. Even his friends love it. I will often find him in this swing with his Ipad chilling out. And it was only around $100 total. The one from the OT’s office was around $500. I checked.
This image reminds me of another sensory item we have that isn’t a traditional one. I have an exercise trampoline that my son loves to bounce on. The exercise ball is another great tool for him. I got him one with the handle like these shown below just for safety. But I have had a large yoga ball for years and I love that they have the same one in my OT’s office. This one has the added benefit of encouraging exercise. There is nothing funnier than seeing him go all through the house bouncing.
We have also created an obstacle course out of some wiggle seats. We had them when he was in public school. But he kept falling out of his chair. So I brought them home and we use them like lily pads or stepping stones. I also like the bumps because they give his feet traction and a mild massage. They aren’t too pricey, and they help with balance.
Wiggle Seat/ Balance Board
By the way, all of this stuff I got off Amazon.com. They are my favorite store because I don’t have to go anywhere. And since my sweet Asperger’s boy hates leaving the house, it makes the whole family happy. I have a couple more sensory toys you may not consider to be sensory related. But they are a lot of fun. This first one helps with balance and getting out excess energy. There are several versions of this on the market. I call it a balance ball. There is a bump or ball in the middle of the platform. And the goal is not to kill yourself.
Giant Bean Bag or Crash Pad
And the final item on my list today is the giant bean bag. Crash pads, gymnastic mats, and even large bags filled with stuffed animals are another great substitute. We already had this one when we started OT, so it was super easy to add it to our home obstacle course routine.
You may look at all this and feel overwhelmed. But start small with something that works in your life, and in your home. I have been pleasantly surprised at the improvement in my son’s behavior and mood as he has found outlets for his sensory needs. I would never have thought of getting them for him without guidance. But this has been the best money we have ever spent because of the peace it has brought into our home. If you have someone in your family with sensory needs, try some of these inexpensive DIY options. They really work!
This article was previously posted on Abby’s blog at Patheos.com
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that this isn't a bad thing. And you or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.