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Easy-to-Use Calming Strategies for Autism

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My most recent video blog post shows my work with a girl with Autism who is non-verbal and has many sensory needs. She comes into the session upset and anxious and I do my best to help her regulate her sensory system so that she can calm down and work on her therapeutic goals with me.

Whether you are a parent, teacher or therapist, if you try to get a child with sensory integration issues to do work without first addressing their sensory system, you are going to be fighting a losing battle.

Let's put this into perspective. If you were to go into work with a rash that was itching like crazy, a headache, and hunger pains gnawing at your belly, it would be really hard to focus on your work and get things done, right? When a child has a dis-regulated sensory system, this is what it can be like for them.

So what can you do to help regulate a child's sensory system? You can:

  • Have calming instrumental music playing at 60 beats per minute (resting heart rate). Click here and scroll down to the music player to check out my "Sleep Soundly" CD to listen to an example. This is the music that you hear in the background of this video blog post.
  • Zip it! Keep you words and directives/prompts to a minimum.
  • Turn down the lights! Avoid using fluorescents if possible.
  • Give the child a fidget toy or mouthing/chew toy to help them get the sensory input that they need to become regulated.
  • Use deep pressure if that what your child craves (consult with an OT about how to do this).
  • Many children respond well to swinging so if you have a swing, use it.
  • Use a calming activity such as blowing bubbles. If you can have them blow a bubble off of the wand that is great since it will be encouraging deep breaths.
  • Consult with an Occupational Therapist! OT's are well-versed in sensory regulation strategies.
  • As with any intervention, it all depends on the child and his/her individual needs and challenges, so be observant and try to learn more about their sensory needs.


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Ryan Judd is a board certified music therapist. He has a master's degree in Music Therapy and a bachelor's degree in Psychology, with an emphasis on Child Development. He has been working as a music therapist with children with special needs for more than 16 years. In addition to working one on one with clients, Ryan also leads groups focused on the development of social skills.  His services are available in Southern New Hampshire, Northern Massachussets and Southern Maine.  He lives in the Seacoast region with his wife who is a 1st grade teacher.


  • Linda Marshall Kramer, OTR/L C/NDT BCN Sunday, 08 February 2015

    Thank you for your ideas. I especially appreciate your recognition of consulting with an Occupational Therapist who is skilled in sensory processing and regulation!

  • Ryan Monday, 09 February 2015

    Of course! I learned some of my best strategies and techniques from OT's!!!

  • Linda Marshall Kramer, OTR/L C/NDT BCN Sunday, 08 February 2015

    Thank you for your ideas, and also the recommendation to consult with an Occupational Therapist who is skilled in sensory modulation and regulation!

  • Ryan Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Hi Linda, you and your fellow OT colleagues are always the BEST resource for sensory integration info and strategies. I have learned so much from the many amazing OT's that I have had the privilege to work with over the years. :)

  • A. Collins Monday, 09 February 2015

    You are AMAZING! I am a SLP who adores working with children affected by Autism and have begun utilizing some of your strategies and even learning how to play guitar!!! Truly, you are my idol!!!;)

  • Ryan Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    I'm so glad that you are finding these videos and suggestions helpful! Music and Speech/Communication are such a great fit!

  • Bob Horney Monday, 09 February 2015

    You are just amazing. Many thanks for all you are doing and sharing!

  • Ryan Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Hey Bob, thanks so much for the comment! So much of what I have learned has come from my time at Adam's Camp so I owe a lot to you and the talented therapists that I have had the honor to work with.

  • Melanie Monday, 09 February 2015

    Ditto on the Amazing Ryan! Thanks for sharing!

  • Ryan Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Thanks Melanie!!!

  • Stephanie Tuesday, 10 February 2015

    Hi-that was amazing!! My son has high functioning autism and he fights me on everything I ask him to do like homework getting ready for bed, getting dressed, everything!! He bangs his head, yells, gets so upset and it breaks my heart!! I don't know what to do!! He's almost 9 and in second, repeating second, and he has an aid at school but when he gets home he's sooo angry!! I don't know what to do!!

  • Ryan Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Hi Stephanie, that sounds like a very challenging situation. I know that moms usually take the brunt of the frustration and anger. I would suggest connecting with other moms who deal with similar situations. Sometimes a support group can be a wonderful place to vent, be hear and get some great resources and suggestions.

    It also sounds like a consultation with an OT for sensory needs and a ABA therapist for a personalized behavioral program could also be very helpful. I know that it is hard to get the funding for these things sometimes, but I hope that you can make it happen!

    Shoot me an email and I will send you the mp3s from my "Sleep Soundly" CD. It can be great for your son and YOU to have relaxing music playing during stressful times and routines. I hope this helps!!!!

  • Sue Khammar, OTR/L Tuesday, 10 February 2015

    Wonderful. Your body language and calm demeanor is very helpful as well!

  • Ryan Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Hi Sue, thanks so much for watching and commenting! I do my best to stay calm and present, but it's not always easy!!! :)

  • Emily Tuesday, 10 February 2015

    Thanks so much for sharing - some great ideas on how to start slow, attuning, meeting a child 'where they are' in a manageable kind way and then building up 'demands'. Lovely work!

  • Ryan Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Hey Emily, I like the way you word that! Thanks so much for the comment.

  • Maria Kartsona Tuesday, 10 February 2015

    Excellent work!!!! So helpful! Thank you for sharing all these amazing stuff with us!

  • Ryan Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Hi Maria, it is my pleasure! Thanks for watching!!!

  • Omar Elamparo Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    So helpful! Now I understand... Thanks for this wonderful video... God speed

  • Ryan Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Hey Omar, I'm so glad that you found this helpful. Thanks for checking it out!

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