Tag Archives: autism

Sensory-Friendly Stocking Stuffers: Unwrap the Joy of Play!

Get ready to infuse sensory magic into your children’s holiday with sensory-friendly stocking stuffers! We’ve searched the Therapro shelves for products that can help your sensory seeking children; here’s a peek at some of our favorite stocking stuffer ideas to engage and delight your sensational kiddos.

Visual Vibes 🌈 

Revolving Tops: Watch Them Go
4 colorful plastic revolving tops

The vibrant colors and long spinning motion of these tops make them an excellent visual stimulator. As the tops twirl and spin, they create a mesmerizing display of colors, capturing the attention of children with sensory challenges. These tops not only engage the visual sense but also provide a delightful auditory experience as they whir and spin.

Theraputty Sparkle Exercise Putty: Visually Stimulating
Hand holding red sparkle putty

Sparkle putty adds a touch of visual magic to the sensory experience. The glittering effect inside the putty creates a visually appealing texture, making it both a visual and tactile delight. The vibrant red or yellow colors enhance the overall sensory engagement, providing a unique and festive stocking stuffer.

Wind Up Toys: Assorted Characters with Chomping, Waddling, Hopping, and Spinning Actions
wind up smiley face toy

Wind-up toys offer a playful and visually engaging experience. With a variety of characters that chomp, waddle, hop, spin, and more, these toys provide both visual and auditory stimulation. Watching the whimsical movements of these wind-up toys can be particularly captivating for children who seek sensory experiences.

DNA Ball : Filled with Mini Spheres in Neon Colors
Colorful DNA Ball

The DNA ball is a visually stimulating toy filled with mini spheres in bright neon colors. The twisting and turning motion of the ball, combined with the vibrant colors, create a visually dynamic experience. This sensory-friendly stocking stuffer not only engages the visual senses but also encourages exploration and manipulation.

Tactile Treasures 🤗

Tangles: Twistable and Textured
Tangle Jr. Totally Textured Metallic

Tangles are twistable and textured fidget toys that offers a tactile outlet for restless hands. With its interconnected pieces, children can twist, turn, and fidget to their heart’s content. The tactile feedback from the textured surface (textured, fuzzy, or textured metallic) can be calming and engaging.

Senseez: Handheld Sensory Soothables
Senseez® Handheld Sensory Soothables

Senseez® Handheld Sensory Soothables are handheld sensory tools that offer both tactile and proprioceptive input. The added benefit of washable covers makes them practical for regular use. Choose Cow, Turtle, or Jellyfish.

Koosh Ball: Shaggy, Shakable, Squeezable Fun
colorful assortment of Koosh Balls

The Koosh Ball is a classic tactile toy that provides a unique sensory experience. Its shaggy texture invites children to shake, squeeze, and even throw the ball. The varied tactile input from the soft, rubbery strands can be both entertaining and soothing.

Boinks Fidget: Marble-Filled Mesh Tube for Quiet Fidgeting

The Boinks Fidget is a discreet and quiet tactile tool that fits into the palm of the hand. The mesh plastic tube holds a marble inside, allowing for subtle manipulation. The gentle movement of the marble within the tube offers tactile stimulation without creating noise, making it an ideal fidget for various environments.

Auditory Adventures 🔊

Mini RainBoMaker: Calming Sounds of Falling Rain

The RainBoMaker produces the gentle, soothing sound of falling rain when inverted. This auditory experience can be particularly calming. It provides a predictable and rhythmic sound made by tiny, colorful beads. The special prism in the walls of the RainBoMaker create a rainbow of colors for added visual stimulation.

Noise Putty: Squish and Create Funny Noises

Noise Putty adds an element of surprise and amusement to auditory play. Children can squish the putty with their hands to create funny and entertaining noises. This tactile and auditory combination makes noise putty a versatile and engaging stocking stuffer.

Rapper Snappers : Attention-Grabbing Sounds

Rapper Snappers are accordion-like plastic tubes that stretch out and push back together to produce surprising sounds. Children can create noises by talking or making sounds into the opening of the tube. The tactile feedback of stretching and compressing the tube adds an interactive element to auditory play.

Whistles and Blow Toys: Fun Auditory Exploration

Whistles and blow toys add an element of interactive auditory exploration to playtime. Level 1 whistles require minimal pressure increase over regular breathing, making them accessible and enjoyable for children with sensory challenges. Here are some recommendations:

  • Echo Microphone: A microphone that provides an echo effect, enhancing the auditory experience of spoken words or sounds.
  • Round Kazoo: This whistle requires less rounding of the lips over the mouthpiece as the mouthpiece is flatter than with most other whistles.

Olfactory Wonders 👃

Scented Dazzlin’ Dough: Fruity Scented Modeling Material

Scented Dazzlin’ Dough combines the tactile pleasure of modeling material with snazzy colors and fruity scents. Made with natural food-grade ingredients, this dough engages both the olfactory and tactile senses. Children can enjoy the sensory experience of molding and shaping while being enveloped in delightful scents.

Happy Senso Sensory Gel: Refreshing Scents in a Fun Sensory Gel

The Happy Senso Sensory Gel comes in a convenient 6.9 oz. spray can, offering a variety of delicious scents, including mint, tropical, sweetness, and neutral. This sensory gel provides a unique olfactory experience through the sense of smell. A quick spray can introduce refreshing scents into the hands, contributing to a positive sensory atmosphere.

Chew Stixx Pencil Toppers: Multi Sensory Exploration
Chew Stixx Pencil Topper in various colors

Chew Stixx Pencil Toppers come in a 2-pack with one smooth and one knobby topper. Gentle scents/flavors to choose from include: grape, mint, spearmint, and orange. Chewies with scents offer a multisensory experience by combining olfactory and gustatory senses. The pleasing scents add an extra dimension to oral exploration, providing a calming and enjoyable experience for sensational children.

Oral Bliss 😋

Chewable Jewelry : Stylish, Wearable, and Orally Satisfying Necklaces and Bracelets

Chewable jewelry makes for the perfect sensory-friendly stocking stuffer. When it comes to chews there are many options to choose from, here our some of our favorites:

various SpaceJet Chew with Break Away Clasp Necklace
  • Chewelry: Stylish necklaces and bracelets that serve as a safe alternative to chewing on clothing.
  • Space Jet Chew: A wearable chew with a space-themed design, providing a safe outlet for oral stimulation.
  • Brick Stick Textured Chew Necklace: Featuring textured surfaces, this chew necklace is designed to help calm, soothe, and self-regulate.
  • Chew Tags: Safe and wearable, these dog tag-shaped chews offer a discreet solution for children who need to chew.
  • Parachewer Bracelets: Parachewer Bracelets are cool and discrete chewable bracelets made of non-toxic nylon paracord and colorful tubing. They are durable and designed to withstand the toughest of chewers, offering a stylish and orally satisfying accessory.

Pro tip: need help deciding which chew is best, check out Therapro’s Choose Your Chew Handy Guide!

Vestibular Ventures 🕺

Move Your Body Thumball: An Interactive Movement Guide

The Move Your Body Thumball is a soft, squeezable 4″ size ball that fits perfectly into a stocking. Catch the ball and look at where the thumb is positioned to find directions for a physical activity to perform. This interactive and tactile tool encourages movement and provides a fun way to engage in physical activities.

Move Your Body Fun Deck : 60 Movement Activities

The Move Your Body Fun Deck is a collection of 60 movement activities on colorfully illustrated cards, with game ideas included. Stored in a cute tin container, these cards offer a variety of movement options to keep things interesting. These cards encourage physical activity and engagement.

Yoga Dice: Simple Movement Game for Focus and Flexibility

Yoga Dice is a simple movement game that helps increase focus and flexibility while teaching 36 yoga poses. Roll the dice to determine the pose and engage in a calming and physically beneficial activity. 

Proprioceptive Pleasures 🤲

Soft Wrist Weights : Gentle Proprioceptive Stimulation

Soft Wrist Weights encircle the wrists and provide gentle weight. They come in a pack of two and weigh 1/4 of a pound. Made of cozy blue fleece stretch fabric, these weights stimulate the proprioceptive system. The snug fit over the wrists offers a comfortable and subtle way to incorporate proprioceptive input.

B-Buddy Hand-Held Chew : Versatile Chewy for Jaw Stimulation

B-Buddy Chews provide proprioceptive input to the jaw and muscles of the mouth. This versatile chewy offers several ways to apply stimulation and is available in a smooth or bumpy texture for light to moderate chewers. The various textures allow for personalization based on individual preferences and needs.

And there you have it! A sensory wonderland awaits your sensational little ones. Mix, match, and watch the joy unfold as they unwrap these sensory-friendly stocking stuffers. Happy Holidays and a season full of sensory joy to you and your family from Therapro! 🎄🌈✨

Guest Blogger: Filomena Connor, MSOTR, Retired

Social Language Rules & Tools: A Preschool Curriculum of activities to improve social–ability

Activities to Improve Social–Ability in Play

Teachers and speech language pathologists (SLPs) can use highly interactive social language roleplay activities to improve the social-ability of their preschool students.   During these fun lessons children learn strategies to help them to establish joint attention so that their communication attempts will succeed.  

Why do so many Of preschooler’s attempts at communication fail? 

Failed communication attempts are not uncommon for preschool-age children, especially those with social language challenges, such as autism. The missing key is joint attention.

  • One child begins to talk about his painting, “I made a fish.”, but the other child turns away.  There’s no joint attention,  so communication fails.
  • One child asks, ”Where is the truck?”, but the other child talks over them commenting on their bridge. There’s no joint attention,  so communication fails.
  • One child requests the red train, “I wanna have the red one?”, but the other child talks about his new shirt.  There’s no joint attention,  so communication fails.
  • One child comments on their toy cat, “My cat is scratchy.”, but the other child just ignores them.  There’s no joint attention, so communication fails. 

Joint attention ensures that both the speaker and the listener are looking at, referring to and or thinking about the same topic. Adults take responsibility for creating joint attention with children by getting down on their level, by following their lead and by persevering in calling their attention to interesting objects or events.  Therefore, communication with adults is often successful. 

However, peers with social language challenges are less likely to be able to initiate and or respond to other’s attempts at joint attention resulting in many missed opportunities to successfully close the communication circle. 

Age Expectations

 It is interesting to note that most babies should be following the gaze of their parent by turning to look at whatever their parent is looking at by 6 months of age.  Babies begin pointing by 8-9 months.  Babies use gestures, eye gaze and vocalizations to get caregiver’s attention by 12 months (for more, see Developmental Milestones on page 196 of Social Language Rules and Tools).

What is happening? 

In order for a communication attempt to succeed, the speaker and the listener have to create joint attention toward each other, toward an object or toward an idea. Joint attention is the key to success in completing the communication loop. Many preschoolers, especially those on the spectrum, are still developing this skill. That’s why communication attempts with adults, who take responsibility for creating joint attention are much more likely to succeed than preschooler’s communication attempts with peers. The speaker needs to be aware of their listener’s needs.

  • “If I don’t get their attention then they won’t know I’m talking to them.” 
  • “If I don’t get close enough to them they might not hear me.” 
  • “If I don’t say it in an interesting way they might not notice me.” 

The listener needs to be responsive to the speaker. 

  • “If I don’t look up or say a word then they won’t know I heard them.” 
  • “If I didn’t understand what the speaker said then I need to ask.“ 

There’s a lot that can go wrong! 

What to do? 

Many children with special needs, such as autism, benefit from specific and direct social language instruction.  The Social Language Rules and Tools Curriculum provides this type of instruction. Key features of the Rules and Tools Curriculum include:

  • It is focused on specific chanted rules. 
  • It is prompted with non-verbal devices, such as, gestures, pictures, objects, etc. 
  • It is presented in integrated group lessons.
  • It is modeled by typical peers and supportive teachers.
  • It is incorporated into increasingly novel play, conversation and learning activities. 
TAP AND CALL TEACHING PICTURE  used to teach joint attention

An example of an activity that provides needed direct social language instruction is Tap and Call, from the Rules and Tools Curriculum. Tap and Call is the first rule of the 68 rules and lessons in the Social Language Rules and Tools Curriculum and is taught to increase successful interactions by ensuring  joint attention. If you teach preschoolers to Tap and Call then:

  1. The preschooler who is speaking will get close to the listener
  2. The preschooler who is speaking will look at the listener
  3. The preschooler who is speaking will gain the listener’s attention

With this the preschooler who is listening is much more likely to respond with eye contact or a verbal response; they will establish joint attention and the communication circle will be complete!

How to teach this? 

Roleplay! Through roleplay, parents, teachers and speech language pathologists can engage preschool children in interactive lessons to teach these skills. 

Pointer finger icon from Rules and Tools

For example, using a large pointer finger prop (which is easily and inexpensively cut out of foam board) creates drama as adults model Tapping and Calling their listeners before they talk. Best of all, this can become an interactive game for the preschool audience watching the role play. Encourage your preschoolers to call out “FREEZE, YOU NEED TO TAP AND CALL!” when the adult role players ‘forget’ to Tap and Call before talking.

Enhance the learning experience with a multisensory element like singing. In the example above preschoolers can say and clap out a chant:  “They might not notice me at all, if I forget to ‘Tap and Call’!” 

Using songs when teaching social language rules can tap into different learning styles.  Songs have been shown to improve attention and memory.  Tap and Call has a song to the tune of “TAPS” (see Social Language Rules and Tools Curriculum for the words to the Tap and Call song).     

Adults and peers can use the large pointer finger prop/token along with the chant and song to playfully generalize the Tap and Call rule to the classroom during snack, games, crafts, and free play activities.   These props, chants and songs can be sent out of the classroom to many different settings within the school and to the child’s home to ensure generalization of new rules to different environments and to different people.   

How to find out more information?  

Refer to Rule 1.1 of Social Language Rules and Tools Curriculum for details about these interactive roleplay lessons and the multimodality teaching methods. 

Some children are missing positive communication experiences over and over in every possible interaction with peers, teachers, siblings and parents. What a lot of missed opportunity and missed reinforcement from those possible interactions!  Unlike ABA and Playfulness therapies where adults do all the work, Social Language Rules and Tools Curriculum teaches communicatively challenged children to recognize and implement subtle, key rules or behaviors that their more successful peers use intuitively all day long. 

The rule sets are listed in developmental order based on literature review (included in the program on pages 195-229). 

Stay tuned for the next Talk and Play blog for Lesson 1.2 Answer, ‘What?’ 

Guest Author: Deborah Fortin, author of Social Language Rules & Tools: A Preschool Curriculum

Sommerfly Classic Weighted Shoulder Wrap

Everyday Sensory Solutions

Sensory-Friendly Environments

When creating sensory-friendly environments, the emphasis is on minimizing overwhelming stimuli and providing sensory solutions that promote regulated and organized responses to sensation. The goal is to create an environment that benefits individuals with sensory differences. Here are a few examples of how to reduce irritating auditory, visual, or tactile stimulation and ways to offer calming deep touch, movement, auditory, visual, and muscle work options to create your own sensory-friendly environment.

Auditory Stimulation:

everyday sensory solutions HUSH BUDDY EARMUFFS
  • Provide noise-canceling headphones or earbuds to reduce or eliminate loud or overwhelming sounds.
  • Offer a quiet area or soundproofing measures to create a space with reduced auditory stimulation.
  • Use white noise machines or calming music to create a soothing auditory environment.

Visual Stimulation:

Fluorescent Light Filter
  • Use soft, neutral colors on walls and furnishings to create a calming visual atmosphere.
  • Provide adjustable lighting options, such as dimmers or natural light.
  • Use curtains, blinds, or fluorescent light covers to regulate incoming light and reduce glare.
  • Create visual points of interest, such as calm and nature-themed artwork. 
  • Avoid overcrowding walls with visuals.
  • Leave some walls blank or with very minimal visual input.

Tactile Stimulation:

  • Offer sensory-friendly materials, such as soft fabrics, textured surfaces, or materials that can be held or manipulated and aren’t scratchy and irritating.
  • Create sensory bins or tactile centers with various materials like pinto beans, rice, or soothing textured objects for tactile exploration.

Calming Deep Touch and Movement:

Sit Tight weighted lap pad

Muscle Work:

Remember that each individual may have unique sensory preferences, so it’s important to offer a variety of options and allow for personalization. By considering these strategies and tools, you can create a sensory-friendly environment that caters to the sensory preferences of individuals, promotes regulation, and enhances their overall well-being.  

It is important to note that all occupational therapists are trained in sensory processing and many have extensive experience and deep understanding in this area. Whenever possible, seek guidance from an occupational therapist for individualized sensory recommendations.

Stay tuned for our next installment of Everyday Sensory Solutions by Sommerfly.
For more information about Sommerfly Products visit Therapro.com.

Guest Blogger: Kristi Langslet, OTR/L

Kristi Langslet, OTR/L is the proud owner of Sommerfly, a company dedicated to providing individuals of all ages with sensory needs unique product designs that are meticulously crafted in the USA for optimal quality and construction. Most importantly, Sommerfly’s passion is to serve those who use our products.