Quick Tip (Novelty Bag): The Autism Files
What do you do when the queue is too long and your child is getting agitated?
What do you do when there is a traffic jam and your child is in the back seat, squirming?
These are situations that can make all parents uneasy, but if you are the parent of a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) it can make your blood pressure rise as you wonder if the situation will get out of hand.
When agitation and stress increases in a child with ASD, you need to put a break in the circuit, otherwise a meltdown of epic proportions may occur.
One circuit breaker that parents have found useful is to produce a bag of sensory toys and items when their child is showing signs of greater than usual stress. It is best if this bag is only brought out on special occasions (a novelty bag for emergencies) for maximum effect. You can keep a bag hidden in the car, have a small collection in your handbag, and take a bag with you to waiting rooms.
ASD children often seek out sensory stimulation (eg. the feel of squishy balls or soft material, things that flash, things that spin, things that light up, things to chew or suck).
When you have identified your own child’s sensory needs via a sensory profile, you can tailor the sensory toys to suit them. When you observe the warning signs of too much stress, you can bring out the novelty bag and provide them with a sensory distraction.
My son with ASD loves to chew on things, especially when stressed. We have evidence of his excessive chewing all over the place (t-shirts with large holes, erasers with little pieces missing, a bunk bed with hundreds of small marks that look like a rat has been chewing the wood).
My sensory bag included such things as rubber chew sticks, squeeze balls, even chewing gum and lollipops. I found that sucking on a lollipop was often the only way he could get through some aversive experiences, such as the hairdressers.
He also loved all things that spin, so the kit included toys with spinning lights and parts.
An Occupational Therapist can help you with developing a sensory profile and recommending sensory toys. There are also many internet sites that sell sensory toys.
Note: There are other ways to distract/divert children’s attention with things such as Ipads and computer games, but I will talk about that in another post.