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Sensory Integration Toys and Products for Children & Adults With Special Needs
Sensory integration (SI) is the process the brain uses to organize and interpret information received from all senses, including sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, body awareness, movement and gravitational pull. Many kids develop sensory integration during normal childhood activities, but some are not able to develop it as efficiently as they should. Sensory integration disorders can lead to learning, behavioral or developmental problems.
Sensory integration therapy can help children with SI disorders by exposing them to structured and repetitive sensory stimulation. Over time, the child’s brain adapts and starts to process sensory stimulations more efficiently.
An important aspect of SI therapy is the use of carefully designed activities and accommodation. This process could happen in the form of special sensory processing disorder products and sensory room items. Some of the products that have helped people during SI therapy include activity mats, ball chairs and clampable sensory trays.
What Are Sensory Items and Sensory Toys?
Sensory toys for children with autism and special needs enable them to receive one or more of the sensory inputs they crave. They can keep a child engaged physically and mentally by stimulating senses such as taste, smell, touch, sound, sight, movement and balance. Special needs sensory toys may have sharply contrasting colors or produce sounds and stimulate two or more senses during play.The toys can capture the attention of children, and they may be used as rewards during behavioral analysis programs. For those with ADHD, sensory toys serve as good fidget toys that boost concentration and improve focus. They also help people who need to keep their hands busy to pay attention and listen.
Types of Sensory Products
Sensory products for kids with autism and other special needs can be categorized based on the sensory systems. They include the following.
If your child is sensitive to auditory input, your occupational therapist may recommend auditory sensory products for use at home and school. Some of the most widely used products include:
- White noise machines
- Noise canceling headphones
- Drums of different shapes and sizes
- Boom whackers
Scents can stimulate our memory, help us identify foods and flowers and alert us to danger. Products that stimulate the olfactory sense may be integrated into a child’s daily routine, placed in a room or worn with clothing, including:
- Scented pencils
- Scented bubbles
- Scented chewies
- Scented markers
- Scented dough
Oral motor activities include chewing and sucking. They provide proprioceptive input to the child’s jaw. Some of these sensory products can be used to promote replacement behaviors for chewing non-food objects and clothing. Some oral-motor products include:
- Chew beads
- Horns and whistles
- Electric toothbrushes
- Bubble blowers
Visual products can help a child or adult stay calm and focused while reducing visual overload on the eyes. These visual toys should be included in any sensory toolbox:
- Light and movement projectors
- Different types of mazes
- Liquid motion toys
- Water beads
- Bubble tubes
Deep touch and deep pressure tools can stimulate the tactile receptors. Stimulated tactile receptors can release serotonin in the brain to improve mood and help sensory regulation. Examples of tactile sensory products include:
- Ball pits
- Ball chairs
- Weighted lap pads
- Weighted blankets
- Vibrating massagers
- Scalp massagers
- Back scratchers
How Do Sensory Toys Help With Autism and Sensory Needs?
Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder or sensory processing disorder can benefit from using sensory intervention tools. Occupational therapists recommend that you add sensory toys to your child’s daily routine.
Sensory toys are available in various sizes and shapes, including hand toys, chew toys, rings, cubes and fidget spinners. These toys engage the child’s preferred sense in a fun and enjoyable way. They help kids with autism to:
- Stay calm in a stressful situation
- Focus and concentrate longer
The essence of using sensory toys is to reduce the discomfort and fear linked with sensory disorders by playing in a natural way. When the person can process one sense well, a toy that highlights another sense may be introduced. As people experience less frustration or anxiety, they’ll also improve their communication skills.
What Is the Purpose of Sensory Play?
Sensory play is any type of activity that can stimulate someone’s senses. Kids learn best and retain the greatest volume of information when their senses are effectively engaged. For example, if you learned the lyrics of a song with a friend in childhood, as soon as you hear the tune, your brain will create a flashback memory to your childhood years.
Sensory play aids mental development through exploration and can help your child’s brain make strong connections for processing and responding to sensory information. Some of the vital benefits of sensory play include that it:
- Builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways that can help a child handle complex learning tasks
- Aids the development of language, boosts cognitive growth and sharpens motor skills
- Enhances social interaction and problem-solving skills
- Can calm a frustrated or anxious child
- Helps children learn important sensory attributes like dry, wet, cold, hot and sticky
How Sensory Products Can Provide Calm
Sensory products and sensory rooms are beneficial to those who have ADHD, autism or sensory processing disorder. Calming toys help people with autism to relax in stress-inducing situations. They provide a soothing effect when a person is experiencing a meltdown or sensory challenge. They can be used in the classroom, home or clinic and may be applied as an integral part of a calming room to help both children and adults go to sleep. The key features that create this calm can include weight, vibration, a soft surface, gentle massaging and a rhythmic sound.
Shop for Sensory Products Online
Browse our online store and check out the large stock of sensory products we offer at Enabling Devices. We can help you choose the best products to meet your loved ones’ special needs. Contact us for a free consultation today.