How to Satisfy 6 Kinds of Sensory Needs for Kids With Autism

When it comes to sensory seeking behavior and feedback, what helps my children might help yours, though maybe in different ways.

What are the different kinds of sensory seeking behaviors?

1. Oral: Anything that provides a mouth feel, like chewing, licking and biting.

To help redirect this, there are Chewys and chewlery available online. For children who only choose to chew on material, a clean washcloth or wristband will help.

2. Tactile: Your sense of touch. A child who likes to seek out tactile sensory experiences may stroke and touch many different textures.

For children who are tactile seeking, having a bag of items to feedback from is a good idea. Encourage them to touch a variety of textures. For example, your bag could contain a first-aid crinkly blanket (space blanket), bubble wrap, soft fleecy materials, pine cones, carpet square samples, astroturf samples, feathers, large seashells and smooth, cool stones to feel.


Some stretchy toys are great to fiddle with for tactile feedback, such as spongy toys and rough items like tree bark.

3. Olfactory: Your sense of smell, so lots of sniffing and seeking new, attractive smells.

Empty soap bottles are very good for olfactory sensory seekers. Simply wash out, dry and put in colorful pom-poms soaked in vanilla essence or lavender. An empty jar with a few holes in the lid stiffed with lavender is a good calming tool. Make sure they are closed good and tight; a glue gun is excellent for this.

4. Proprioception: Your sense of where you are in space, where your feet end and the floor begins.

Children who have proprioceptive seeking tendencies may stomp, tread heavily and sit down hard for the impact.

For children who are sensory seeking by bouncing, provide crash mats and trampolines for proprioceptive feedback.

5. Vestibular: A vestibular seeker will enjoy spinning and rocking, and they may enjoy swinging.

Spinning and rocking is seeking to balance the vestibular sense, so swinging your child gently in a hammock-shaped sheet is great for this, as are sit-on spinning toys.

6. Visual: The sense of sight. A visual seeker will enjoy looking at different lights and colors.

Sometimes children enjoy tilting their heads to one side to watch car wheels spin, or squinting to change their visual perception.

Visual seekers will enjoy bubble tubes, fiber optics, sand timers and light up toys that are visually stimulating. For more visual fun, try tinted lenses glasses and a bubble machine.

These are all things my children enjoy and I do hope they help yours. If your child is flooding the bathroom, playing in the toilet or tipping your shampoos out everywhere, they are sensory seeking. They are not misbehaving; instead, redirection is what’s called for.

Sensory play is easy and fun and needed for our children with sensory needs. It helps to ground and regulate them.

Some cheap, easy examples are:

  • Water play, bubbles, foamy soap , bath paints and empty bottles for pouring.
  • Rice, lentils, pasta and dried beans for pouring. Never use black beans or kidney beans, as they are toxic until cooked.

boy catching bubbles outside

These are things that will help calm and stimulate your children and in turn keep your sanity intact. Above all, they are fun and children learn through what they experience in their environment.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.


Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Day I Was Able to Protect My Son

It was a beautiful, sunny day in North Florida. The skies were clear, the temperature was a cool 45 degrees and we were on our way to the state park to learn about the Spanish versus the French and how they settled at Ft. Caroline. Our park ranger, Herb, was an amazing storyteller engaging all [...]

An Open Letter to Women’s Health Magazines

I remember the first time I really looked at one of you, standing in the CVS line, clutching my disposable razors and gummy vitamins. I read your headlines, boldly lining the model’s sculpted abdominal muscles. Here is what I learned in ten seconds: My salad topping choices could be ruining my salad’s nutritional quality, there’s [...]

6 Challenges That Come With Being a ‘Passing Aspie’

You probably know me. At least, you’ve seen me around town. I look just like any other soccer mom, after all. I have matched clothes and cared-for hair, and I go with my soon-to-be-stepdaughter and fiancé shopping at the mall and to the movies like anyone else. I had affluent parents and a good education. [...]

‘How Do You Do This Every Day and Not Get Pissed at God?’

“How do you do this every day and not get pissed at God?” This was the second question I was asked recently about parenting an autistic child.  This question I answered simply: “I am not mad at God because he is my son. I understand him to the best of my ability. I get to see what he struggles [...]