Many children with autism suffer from overstimulation. But what is overstimulation? Stimuli are things that you receive through your senses, so all things that you smell, see, feel and hear. But things like pain, cold or heat or being hungry or thirsty are also stimuli. Even the feelings of others are stimuli. In children with autism, the brain has difficulty processing these stimuli. While children without autism have a kind of filter that does not let everything in, that filter is missing in children with autism. The stimuli therefore come in unfiltered, cannot be properly sorted and it is not possible to make a good distinction between which stimuli are important and which are not. This means that there is a kind of short circuit in the brain. This creates a pointy head, as it were.
What you often see is that if a child becomes overstimulated, the child can have an outburst or sometimes even a meltdown. A child can also show withdrawal behavior and can sit quietly in a corner. Although it is of course important to prevent a child with autism from becoming overstimulated, that will not always work. Sometimes there are things that have to be done, there is the hustle and bustle of a school day and sometimes there are also unexpected circumstances, which entail the necessary incentives. Then it is important to see how you can ensure that a child can destimulate again as quickly as possible.
Often a child knows the very best that he or she can use to unstimulate. Ask your child what he wants. What works for one child may not work for another child. In general it can be said that a quiet environment always works well to de-stimulate. Take a walk together after school (in nature). Then don't ask all kinds of questions about the day, but leave it up to your child if he wants to tell you about it. If your child wants to walk in silence, that's perfectly fine.
At home it can be nice to create a stimulating spot together, let your child think about this too, does he want nice pillows, blankets, or maybe a tent in which he can retreat? Does your child also like to be able to put on headphones (with music)? Some children just want to de-excite with more action and love to hit a punching bag or jump on a trampoline, for example.
Can be used as a toy for children with autism who suffer from overstimulation sensory play material work very well. Sensory play material is material such as water, sand, clay, shaving cream, rice and pasta (spaghetti/macaroni etc). In addition to that sensory play material stimulates the senses (touch), it also has a very destimulating effect. After all, it makes no sound and you can play with it on your own. The child does not need anything else. The child does not have to make anything, it only has to feel. And it is precisely that feeling and being 'aimless' that provides the necessary relaxation and de-stimulation.
In my practice Hartenwijs I work a lot with children with autism. I see many children who are overstimulated. I have been using the beautiful play box from in my practice for some time now @grennn that I fill with them colored rice in magic sand. By letting the child go through the material with his hands, the child becomes increasingly calmer and calmer and can therefore also 'ground' more and come to himself. And that is very valuable for children with autism who have to deal with a world that is increasingly full of all kinds of stimuli.
You often see that after a short time the child has already become much calmer and is ready for 'normal' play again. That's the time for me to behind to be further filled with the scoops and shapes of @grennn, which can further stimulate the imagination. That molds are beautiful in their simplicity, without too many colors, so it goes very well with toys for children with autism. I am often asked if this material is not just for the very younger children. However, my experience is that it works for young and old. The play box is therefore very popular in practice and it is often asked whether the play box may appear on the table again
Danielle van den Burg
Coach for young and old
Specialized in children and young people with autism
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