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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.

 

Please sign up for my newsletter full of great tips and special education resources at https://www.therhythmtree.com/user-registration  

 

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.

Comments

  • Stephen Dolle Friday, 13 February 2015

    Love the visual motor interaction. I worked with a severely delayed child 2 yrs ago with CP & autism with my small percussion. Over a 25 min period, I introduced and played the clave, a shaker, then a bell, woodpecker, and finally the thundertube. She loved it so much she actually grabed and held it against her body (otherwise unable to hold things). And as I left, this 11-yr old crawled over to a banister and stood up and tried to walk (she doesn't walk). Her level of attentiveness to my play & moving of the instruments was remarkable. My session led to her sleeping thru the night for a couple nights. She now lives in a group home where she gets to play 3 x a week.

  • Ryan Judd Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    Hey Stephen, thanks so much for sharing that story. Amazing!!!! Keep up the great work.

  • Julia Thursday, 26 February 2015

    Fabulous post, many thanks. Inspires me to continue working with a child who I cannot engage. It might be helpful to specify that the OT's who can help with sensory intergration may require additional training, in the UK anyway... I graduated in 2013 having no experience or training in SI so the last 9 months have been a very steep learning curb for me. Training varies from uni to uni never mind differing countries. Thanks again.

  • Ryan Judd Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    Hi Julia, thanks for checking out my video and thanks for the info and clarification about training in the UK. I believe that in the USA, if you go into pediatrics, the sensory integration piece is part of your studies. I'll check in with some of my OT friends to be sure. Good luck with your client!!!!

  • Alma Arañas Monday, 02 March 2015

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas!!!, Thumbs up for your work!!

  • Ryan Judd Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    Hi Alma, you are so very welcome! I appreciate you checking out my work and commenting.

  • Alma Arañas Monday, 02 March 2015

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas!!!, Thumbs up for your work!!

  • Heidi Monday, 02 March 2015

    Hi Ryan! I am loving your work, thank you! ... Ryan, I am trying to order your home study course but having a hard time with my visa debit card, can you tell me if this method of payment has glitches, or is it just me? .. I'm so excited to get started with it, just wanting to figure out how to work through these debit card issues,lol

  • Ryan Judd Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    Hello Heidi, thanks so much for the comment and for the interest in my music and social skills course. I apologize for the delayed response. I am having some technical glitches of my own! It looks like you were able to successfully purchase the course. Excellent! Thank you for your support. I hope you get some great new ideas, activities and strategies for using music with children with special needs! If there is anything else I can help you with, shoot me an email at ryan@therhythmtree.com.

  • Amy Copeland Thursday, 05 March 2015

    Wow

  • Ryan Judd Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    :)

  • Ryan Judd Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    Hi Alma, you are so very welcome! Thanks so much for checking out my work.

  • Karla Monday, 02 July 2018

    Hi Ryan,

    I found this very helpful! I am a Music Therapist in Australia and have been working in stroke rehabilitation but about to start working in the autism space. Thanks so much for these videos as its made this next phase of my journey more enriching and up to date interventions and tips that work!!!

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