9 Best Sensory-Friendly Summer Activities for Autistic Kids

Sensory-Friendly Summer Activities for Autistic Kids

Summer is here, bursting with sunshine, fun, and endless possibilities for exploration! But for children with autism, the sensory overload of summer celebrations, bustling crowds, and unfamiliar environments can turn excitement into anxiety.

Don’t worry, though! This article is your guide to creating a summer filled with joy and engagement, with sensory-friendly activities that cater to your child’s unique needs. Get ready for a summer of splashtastic water play, calming nature walks, and creative adventures – all tailored for autistic individuals to shine!

Sensory Needs in Autism

Children with autism often have sensory processing differences that can make certain situations overwhelming or uncomfortable. Sensory processing refers to how the brain receives, interprets, and responds to sensory information from the environment. Autistic children may be over or under-sensitive to sensory input, which can affect their ability to function in everyday situations.

Sensory needs can vary from child to child, but some common sensitivities include:

  • Auditory Sensitivity: Autistic children may be sensitive to loud or sudden noises, such as fireworks or thunderstorms. They may also struggle to filter out background noise, making it difficult to focus on conversations or instructions.
  • Tactile Sensitivity: Some autistic children may be sensitive to certain textures or fabrics, making it uncomfortable to wear certain clothing or touch certain surfaces.
  • Visual Sensitivity: Bright lights, flashing lights, or certain patterns may be overwhelming for some autistic children.
  • Smell and Taste Sensitivity: Certain smells or tastes may be overpowering or unpleasant for some autistic children.

Sensory-friendly activities are those that cater to the sensory needs and preferences of children with autism. These activities can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, making it easier for children to participate in social situations.

Some sensory-friendly summer activities that can be enjoyed by autistic children include:

  • Water Play: Set up a sensory-friendly water play area in your backyard or at a local park. This could include a kiddie pool, water table, or sprinklers. Consider using different temperatures of water, adding bubbles, or incorporating water toys to make the experience more engaging.
  • Nature Walks: Taking a walk in nature can be a calming and sensory-friendly activity. Encourage children to explore different textures, smells, and sounds in their environment.
  • Arts and Crafts: Art activities can be a great way to promote sensory exploration. Consider using different textures, colors, and materials to create a sensory-rich experience.


Outdoor Sensory-Friendly Activities

Summer is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy nature. For children with autism, outdoor sensory-friendly activities can be especially beneficial. These activities can help children develop their sensory processing skills, improve their motor skills, and provide a calming and enjoyable experience.

1. Nature Walks

summer Activities for Kids with Autism

Nature walks are a great way to explore the outdoors and engage in sensory activities. Children can touch different textures of leaves, rocks, and trees, smell flowers and plants, and listen to the sounds of birds and insects. To make the most of the experience, parents can create a scavenger hunt list of items to find along the way, such as a yellow flower or a smooth rock. This can help keep children engaged and focused on the walk.

2. Water Play

summer activities for autism

Water play is a fun and refreshing way to cool off during hot summer days. Children can play with water toys, splash in the pool, or run through sprinklers. Water play can also provide sensory input, such as the feeling of water on the skin or the sound of splashing water. Parents can also add sensory elements to water play by adding different textures or colors to the water, such as foam or food coloring.

3. Gardening

kid gardening

Gardening is a great way to connect with nature and engage in sensory activities. Children can plant seeds, water plants, and touch and smell different types of flowers and herbs. Gardening can also provide a calming and therapeutic experience. Parents can create a sensory garden by planting different types of plants that provide different sensory inputs, such as soft leaves or fragrant flowers.


Indoor Sensory-Friendly Activities

When it’s too hot or rainy to play outside, there are plenty of indoor sensory-friendly activities that children with autism can enjoy. Here are some ideas:

1. Sensory Bins

Sensory bins are a great way to provide tactile stimulation and encourage imaginative play. You can create a sensory bin using materials such as rice, beans, sand, or water beads. Add scoops, spoons, and small toys to encourage exploration and creativity.

2. Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts are a fun way to express creativity and improve fine motor skills. Encourage your child to create art using different materials such as paint, clay, or paper. You can also try making DIY sensory toys such as sensory bottles or playdough.

3. Cooking Projects

Cooking projects are a great way to teach life skills and encourage sensory exploration. You can involve your child in simple tasks such as mixing, pouring, or measuring ingredients. You can also try making sensory-friendly snacks such as fruit kebabs or smoothies.


Community Events and Resources

Summer is a great time for families with autistic children to explore sensory-friendly community events and resources. These events and resources are designed to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for individuals with sensory sensitivities.

1. Sensory-Friendly Movie Screenings

Many movie theaters offer sensory-friendly screenings during the summer months. These screenings are designed to be more comfortable for individuals with sensory sensitivities. The lights are dimmed, the sound is turned down, and there are no previews or advertisements before the movie. Attendees are free to move around and make noise during the movie without fear of disrupting others. AMC Theatres offers sensory-friendly movie screenings across the United States.

2. Quiet Hours at Museums

Museums are a great place to learn and explore, but they can also be overwhelming for individuals with sensory sensitivities. Many museums now offer quiet hours during which the lights are dimmed, the sounds are turned down, and the crowds are limited. These quiet hours provide a more relaxed and welcoming environment for individuals with sensory sensitivities. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. offers sensory-friendly mornings on the second Saturday of every month.

3. Local Support Groups

Local support groups can provide a wealth of resources and information for families with autistic children. These groups often host events and activities throughout the summer months that are designed to be sensory-friendly. They can provide a sense of community and support for families who may feel isolated. The Autism Society of America has a local chapter locator on their website to help families find support groups in their area.


Creating a Sensory-Friendly Home Environment

For individuals with autism, creating a sensory-friendly home environment is essential for their comfort and well-being. It involves considering the unique sensory needs of the individual and making modifications to the home to accommodate those needs. Here are some tips for creating a sensory-friendly home environment:

  • Designated sensory spaces: Designating specific areas within the home that cater to sensory needs is fundamental in creating an autism-friendly home. For instance, a snug reading nook adorned with plush, tactile cushions and a palette of calming colors can be a great place for relaxation and reading.
  • Sensory-conscious design: Enhancing comfort with sensory-conscious design is another important aspect of creating a sensory-friendly home environment. This can involve using soft lighting, sound-absorbing curtains, and furniture with soft textures to reduce sensory overload.
  • Visual supports: Visual supports such as picture schedules, visual timers, and social stories can help individuals with autism understand and anticipate daily routines and transitions, reducing anxiety and stress.
  • Establishing routines: Establishing predictable routines and schedules can help individuals with autism feel more secure and in control of their environment. This can involve setting aside specific times for meals, play, and relaxation.
  • Sensory-friendly play: Creating a dedicated playroom for interaction and communication can provide a safe and stimulating environment for children with autism. Sensory-friendly toys such as fidget spinners, squishy balls, and textured blocks can be incorporated into the playroom to promote sensory exploration and development.

By implementing these tips, individuals with autism can feel more comfortable and supported in their home environment.

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