Autism affects 1 in 59 children. If your child or teen has autism, sensory products may be able to ease some of the common autism-related symptoms and behaviors. We review weighted blankets and five other sensory products you shouldn't miss.
How Autism Sensory Products Can Help
While not every person with autism has difficulties with sensory overload, many do. In some individuals with autism, everyday noises and touches seem almost unbearable at certain times. This is referred to as hypersensitivity. However, in some people with autism, sensory processing seems less intense than average. These individuals may actually crave touch or sound, as their brains tend to under-process stimuli. This is known as hyposensitivity.
Experts compare sensory processing difficulties to a traffic jam — the signals make it into the brain, but they get caught up, clogged and jumbled once they get there. Sensory products may be able to help children (and adults) with autism experience various stimuli at their own pace and on their own terms, which can ease symptoms and lead to fewer meltdowns. When kids use sensory products, they get the proprioceptive input they need without feeling overwhelmed by sight, sound and touch.
6 Sensory Products for Autism
Each child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another. This is why we generally recommend trying a few different autism sensory products to determine which ones seem to help your child.
As all parents know, it’s not uncommon for a child to develop a strong connection to a favorite toy or blanket. The good news is that many of today’s autism sensory products are designed to look like any other non-therapy toy or blanket, so you can take it to school, in the car or even on vacation. Here are six of our favorite autism sensory products to try today.
If you have young kids or tweens, chances are you’ve heard all about fidget spinners, fidget cubes and other types of fidgets. There’s a good reason the official Fidget Cube is the ninth most funded Kickstarter project of all time — it helps people channel their restless energy into an activity that’s satisfying and fun. Ever better, the popularity of fidgets has helped people outside the autism community move toward a greater acceptance of fidgeting behavior. Many people also find that using a fidget improves their focus and keeps them on task.
As the creators of the Fidget Cube put it, “We believe the way we look at fidgeting needs to change. This behavior isn’t one that should continue to be stigmatized and mocked as unbecoming or inappropriate. We are passionate about the idea that fidgeting is a process that, with the right tools and outlet, can have positive and real-life applications.”
You can check out our full line of fidgets here.
Weighted blankets are made with about 10 percent of the user’s body weight. They work by providing a firm but gentle pressure all over the body — similar to a full-body hug. Research has shown that people who sleep with a weighted blanket feel calmer and less anxious.
Another study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders found that participants who used a weighted blanket experienced less insomnia. “The application of deep pressure, through for example weighted vests and blankets, has been reported to produce a calming and relaxing effect in clinical conditions such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders.”
At Luna, we offer weighted blankets in a range of sizes, weights, colors and patterns. We also offer an option cuddle fabric backing for extra sensory input. Browse our extensive collection of weighted blankets here. You can also see finished, ready-to-ship weighted blankets here.
Want to learn more about weighted blankets and autism? Read our post on how to find the best weighted blanket for autism.
Sometimes call “therapy balls,” stress balls have been an office staple for years. Today, many therapists and health professionals use them to help patients with autism self-soothe and improve their focus. While many sensory balls are designed to fit in a child’s palm, others are quite large and resemble the exercise balls you’ll often see in yoga studios.
A 2017 study published in Autism Research Review International found that students with autism who used sensory balls as their classroom seating experienced a number of benefits. “...13 of the 15 children spent significantly more time in their seats and 8 of the 15 increased their on-task behavior while seated on the therapy balls. In addition, students exhibited significantly fewer stereotyped movements and better communication and social skills when sitting on the therapy balls.”
Essential oils have gone mainstream in recent years, as a growing number of people have started using them to address a number of health concerns. Autism Parenting Magazine recommends a variety of essential oils for autism, including:
- Ylang Ylang
Unlike fragrances, essential oils are derived from plants, which means they don’t contain artificial ingredients. While essential oils are a natural product, it’s important to consult with your health professional before trying any kind of treatment or therapy.
You can view our essential oils and related products here.