Calming Influences for Children With Autism
Children with autism can be overly sensitive to touch, sound, textures and tastes. They also have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. This combination can lead to aggressiveness and tantrums, and it can be difficult to calm the child. Understand that what calms your child can be helpful in helping him learn to control his behavior.
Service dogs can be a calming influence on an autistic child. According to Autism Service Dogs of America (AutismServiceDogsofAmerica.com), service dogs can reduce hyperactivity and stress in children with autism, enabling them to go into public places where they might not be able to go without a service dog 1. Being tethered to the service dog prevents the child from bolting or wandering.
Yoga, with its emphasis on controlled breathing, stretching and muscle control, can be calming for children with autism 3. Researchers at New York University found that children with autism who did yoga every day at school behaved better than those who didn’t. The children who were in the daily yoga program had less aggression and hyperactivity and were less withdrawn socially. Yoga helps children to concentrate and focus, and having a consistent routine for performing the yoga steps was calming for the children.
Being submerged or playing with water can be calming for many children with autism 3. Swimming is a popular activity and many autistic children have learned to surf at camps across the country. The pressure of the water and rhythm of the waves tends to calm children with autism and help them focus, according to the Surfers for Autism website 3.
Children with autism often respond to stimuli differently than typically developing children, and many autistic children resist being touched or held. Paradoxically, many of these children find deep touch pressure to be calming. Researcher Temple Grandin, in a paper published in a 1992 edition of the "Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology," talks about her design for a "squeeze machine" to administer deep touch pressure that she used to calm herself while in college. Grandin, who has autism, has written extensively on her experiences. She says that the squeeze machine helped her to “overcome problems of oversensitivity to touch, and that allays my nervousness.”
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