Autism: Making “Sense” of the World

Every day, thousands of people are affected by Autism.  Autism is a disorder that can affect an individual’s ability to interact with others and engage in their environment.  Many children with Autism have difficulty perceiving and interpreting sensory input around them.  From the moment we wake up until we go to sleep, we receive information through our senses.  The way our brain makes sense of this information effects the way we respond to certain experiences.  If we perceive something to be harmful, we avoid it.  If we perceive it as being enjoyable, we are more likely to engage in it.  For children with Autism, this can be a big problem.  This inability to make sense of their world interferes with their ability to interact with others and engage in their environment appropriately.  As a result, they may exhibit adverse behaviors such as tantrums, outbursts, avoidance, and ultimately seclusion.  This can limit the opportunities the family has to bond with their child.  There is a way to help these children cope with these environmental stressors and decrease the occurrences of these adverse reactions.  Modifying one’s home to include a “sensory room” is one effective way.  The sensory room is tailored to the individuals needs and can be used to relieve and/or help the person cope with these involuntary responses to certain stimuli.  It contains various stations with specific sensory equipment and activities that are “less threatening” to the child.  The room is inviting and relaxing; it helps soothe and calm the person.  Some examples of things found in a sensory room are: bean bags; fiber optic/ led lights; bubble tubes; vibration/ massage chairs; ball pit; swing; sensory stations with various textures; calming wall colors; music station; and child- friendly padded floors and/ or walls.  We as Occupational Therapists specialize in and are knowledgeable in this area.  We evaluate the child and their living environment; as well as, provide helpful suggestions to keep your child safe and independent while at home.  Adapting the environment to include a sensory room would give you and your child the opportunity to bond more and enable your child to interact more freely in his environment. 

 April was National Autism Awareness month.  In light of that, we decided to take the opportunity to educate the public on how home modifications can be used to help make your home more user- friendly for your autistic child by including a sensory room.  If you have any questions about how to cope with the adverse effects of sensory processing or modifying your home to include a sensory room, feel free to give us a call.


Esther Gonzalez, M.S. OTR/L Bil TSHH
Adapting Spaces, LLC

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