For parents of autistic children and teens, addressing the sensory issues experienced by their kids may be one of the most challenging tasks to carry out if there’s lack of understanding and confidence on their part. Unknowledgeable and inexperienced parents might see their child’s heightened sensory responses as a form of tantrum or development of natural childhood fears and anxieties, which are common parenting mistakes that may put the child’s very future at an honest compromise. If your child has been diagnosed with autism, it is your duty as parent to not only follow what the medical experts have explained and suggested, but also to do extra research about the nature of your child’s condition and the ways to empower your role as a parent, your child’s primary nurturer and educator. In the context of sensory issues, autistic children may experience either end of the scope, falling as either hypersensitive (those who show extreme responses to sensory stimuli), or hypo-sensitive (those who can’t seem to get enough of sensory stimuli). There have been many recommended programs and treatment for sensory processing disorders advocated by both professionals and support groups, one of which is art therapy.Â

Art as the outlet for expressing one’s creativity, imagination, and ideas is the medium of communication for people who find it difficult to convey messages through verbal conversations. It is one of the most effective ways to channel one’s feelings, perceptions, and yearnings to others by using one or more of the sense organs, making art as an ideal therapy for people with sensory needs caused by neurological disorders like autism. Because art has many forms, such therapy will be able to address the differences of autistic individuals in terms of needs and preferences. Knowing this, it is still not advisable for parents to just enrol their autistic kids to any art therapy sessions or programs. It is still very important to factor in the type of art and the kind of sensory needs that your child has. Below is a list of fun and effective art activities that you and your child can both enjoy doing.

Modeling Clay

This art material is not only neat to play with, but it also comes in cheap prices and non-toxic varieties – positive features that most parents are looking for in a toy. Modeling clay is soft to the touch, can be squeezed and formed into an unlimited range of figures, the limit of which is to the person’s own imaginative ability. There are also colourful sets that your child will surely love moulding, and they can dry their works in a short period of time. In general, modelling clay is good for autistic children that crave to hold and press objects. Parents can also choose fragrant and odourless types, and bright-coloured or dull-coloured ones depending on the child’s type of visual and auditory sensory issues.

Painting With Plastic Bags

Another non-messy kind of art activity, this works best for children who are sensitive to the sound or feel of objects rubbing against each other like a canvas and a paint brush. What you need to do is to get a zip-lock transparent plastic bag, or make your own version of it. After that, put a mixture of your desired paint colours into the bag, which should then be sealed and attached to a table or wall. You can then have your child paint outside the bag through their hands. This serves as a training for sensory hypersensitivity issues related to touch and feel, while also addressing cravings for pressing and squeezing.

Water Tub Coloring

Playing inside a large tub with water is already an enjoyable set up for kids, even those with autism. Adding a little touch of an artistic element can increase the level of fun without putting too much risk on your kid’s own safety. You just have to fill a set of containers with different coloured water using non-toxic colouring agents. Your child can try putting in different colours into the water tub and see how they react to each other. You can also give your child different tools that they can use to mix and play with the coloured water tints.  It can provide a calming sensation to your child who is sensory offensive. You can help minimize the splashes by telling your child to not move around too much if they are hypersensitive to the sound of it.

Styro Modeling

The sound of styrofoam being torn or rubbed may be very distressing for many people, but to autistic persons craving for auditory stimuli, this may just be what they need to feel satisfied. If you think using cutters and scissors is dangerous for your child, they can do this whole activity by only using their hands in tearing pieces and forming their own figures. They can attach the pieces by using tapes, glue, toothpicks, and other adhesives. Coloring the formed figures can also be an option if your child likes to do so.

Color Wonder

Sometimes, what your child really needs is a handful of colouring crayons to hold, press and draw along surfaces. But what makes giving crayons to your child a source of frustration is the part where they draw it on the wall, on the table and many other random places inside your home. Disciplining the child to use the crayons only on specific surfaces may work on neurotypical ones, but to autistic kids, that may prove to be difficult. With the creation of Color Wonder, you can kiss those worries goodbye since the crayons are specially designed to only work on the accompanying colouring sheet.

These activities are just some of the great number of art exercises that you can do with your kids. With sufficient knowledge about your child’s condition, you can easily put your own twist on these activities or even introduce your own creation from an original idea. What’s important is that your child enjoys the activity, while also learning and coping up with their sensory issues in the process.