Explore sensory ideas and activities
Sensory Kits – What are they?
A sensory kit is a great tool to address sensory needs of individuals with ASD. It may include various activities and/or objects that can potentially help reduce anxiety, frustration, and/or resulting behaviors and allow the individual to better focus on daily tasks and activities. Sensory kit items may include objects that address a variety of sensory needs and can be used in any setting or context that may cause anxiety and stress – from waiting rooms or emergency situations to unstructured times (e.g., waiting, recess, car rides).
Who are sensory kits for?
The initial purpose of sensory kits was to act as a starter kit developed with safety in mind in collaboration with our hospital partners for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, who experience everyday sensory sensitivities, like loud noises and bright lights, for example. Over time these sensory kits have shifted to serve any individuals with sensory needs and can be individualized with specific items to fit the needs of the individual.
What are some common sensory sensitivities in individuals with ASD?
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may show sensory sensitivities demonstrating either over- or under-reactivity to particular lights, smells, sounds, tastes, and/or touch/motion. Some individuals may cover their ears at everyday sounds. Others may refuse to touch or eat certain foods. Individuals may also look at objects from unusual angles. Some individuals may show links between particular senses, such as gagging when touching certain objects. Alternatively, some individuals with ASD may not exhibit any reaction to what typically create responses in others (e.g., broken limb, spicy food, slamming door). Repetitive movements or activities may assist in reducing anxiety experienced from these challenges and induce calmness.
How to Make a Sensory Kit
- Review the sensory kit material options in the next dropdown (‘How do I individualize my sensory kit?’) to brainstorm items to include in the kit
- Determine which items would be appropriate and safe for age and functioning level of individuals likely to be using the kit. Remember: a sensory kit should contain several options, targeting each of the senses.
- Create a bag, bin, or shelf with items safe and appropriate to the intended user(s).
- Consider labeling the kit, providing visual instructions and training so the individual(s) can know to recognize the need and how to access materials as needed.
How do I individualize my sensory kit?
Below are ideas for putting together and using a sensory kit, keeping in mind safety rules that may apply based on age, functioning level, and other considerations. Remember, these are only examples and sensory kits should be individualized to meet the particular needs of the person with ASD.
- Spinning Tops
- Theme Books
- Trains / Cars
- Expanding Spheres
- Magna Doodle
- Video Games (hand held)
- Stacking Items
- Timers with Gel Center
- Light Wands
- Bounce Balls
- Pop Bracelet
- Koosh Balls
- Feather Duster
- Fabric Samples
- Fidget Spinner
- Texture Blocks
- Handheld Fan
- Bags/Toys with Rice or Beans
- Bristle Blocks
- Vibrating Toys
- Silly Putty
- Scented Bounce Balls
- Scented Markers
- Scratch & Sniff Stickers
- Scented Toys
- Scented Books
- Weighted Pillow or Blanket
- Weighted / Rice-filled Neck Wrap
- Play Tunnel
- Noise-making Toys
- Musical Instrument
- Tape Recorder
- Noise Cancelling headphones
- Fireball Cinnamon Candy
- Saltine Crackers
- Sour Candy
- Gummy Candy
How to Use a Sensory Kit
- Place the kit in an are that is easily recognizable and accessible
- Offer items preferred by the individual (add to the kit, if needed)
- Monitor and/or supervise to ensure appropriate use
- Use sensory items during downtime/unstructured time (e.g., waiting) or social activities/events (e.g., gatherings)
- Use sensory items as a means for preventing problem behaviors (i.e., provide before any behavior starts)
- If behavior has begun, distract by looking at the items in the kit, commenting only on the materials (not on the problem behavior), and awaiting a brief (i.e., few seconds) time without behavior before providing with the sensory items.
Reason for Request: ‘Request a Sensory Kit for Personal Use (FREE)”
Consider donating items to sensory kits for individuals in need!
Steps to Donate:
- Explore items to purchase on our wishlists above
- From the wishlist, ‘Add to cart’ which item(s) you would like to donate
- Change the shipping address to: 1002 Wishard Blvd, Suite 1021, Indianapolis, IN 46202
- Fill out this form so we can thank you!
- Once received, these items will be put together by our HANDSmade™ intern
Are you a part of a group or organization with time to volunteer time to put sensory kits together?
Steps to Assemble:
- Fill out the above Sensory Kit Submission Form
- Reason for the request: ‘Purchase sensory items and assemble sensory kits as part of an event‘
- HANDS will provide the bags and inserts for each kit
- Once received, determine which age group each sensory kit is for (we focus on 3 main age groupings: under 5, 5-10, and 11+, as shown below)
- Place 2-4 sensory items in a bag, along with the provided insert, making sure the item is appropriate for the age range (due to choking hazards)
- Deliver the finished products to the HANDS office or distribute on your own!
Do you have connections to community members or professionals with a need for sensory tools?
Steps to Distribute:
- If you are in need of kits to distribute, you can request the number needed, whether for an event or individually, by filling out the above form
- Upon receiving the kit(s), you will also be given instructions to assist with dissemination & education towards awareness and acceptance
Ages: < 5