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The Importance of Sensory Play for Children With Disabilities

We’re always looking for better and more effective ways of serving our client populations. That is why we are so happy to see more attention being focused on the importance of sensory play for children with disabilities.

Many large organizations and public spaces now incorporate sensory play areas to make events and places more accessible for all their guests. The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and MSFA announced that a 3M Sensory Room has been installed at U.S. Bank Stadium. The sensory room will cater to fans with autism, Down syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia and other conditions that might require a safe and soothing atmosphere. This season, the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars are joining the growing trend.

These advances indicate an increasing understanding of the importance of sensory input for children with disabilities. One area we focus on with clients who are more sensitive to outside stimuli is sensory play.

What Is Sensory Play?

Children with special needs often have to learn to experience the world in different ways. Sensory play is when a child is able to engage their senses as they play in various ways. They are able to stimulate their senses through seeing the bright and vivid colors paint; the cool-to-touch and smooth texture of the paint on their fingers; that slightly playdough-like smell that hits their nose as they bring their fingertips to the paper; and the contrast of the smooth paint and the textured paper against their fingertips as they map and plan out their painted design. Sensory play is meant to activate as many senses as possible so children are able to familiarize themselves more and more with their surrounding world.  

Why Is Sensory Play Important?

According to Disability Grants, sensory play is important because it helps children with disabilities learn to live a fuller and happier life. Most of our learning comes through our ability to use our senses to retain information. Sensory play is not just about having fun. It is about learning in a fun way.

According to the published study, Readings on the Development of Children, by age three a child has developed from 50 trillion synapses in their brain to 1000 synapses. Sensory stimulation help grow and develop these synapses which in turn progresses their development in  cognitive skills, learn language skills by interacting with other children and instructors, work on fine-tuning motor skills, and develop social skills by working together in a group. There are children that cannot easily understand the messages their senses are providing, so sensory play helps them build these skills in a safe and caring environment. 

What Are Some Examples of Sensory Play?

Sensory play works to build skills on several levels. Sight play encourages children to explore colors and experiment with light. Touch play helps children learn to experience the world using their hands. Taste play helps bring new sensations into their world and helps associate food with fun. Smell and hearing play activities let children take in stimuli from various sources, so they learn to process it more efficiently.

RISE Services Inc. provides services in Arizona, Utah, Oregon and Idaho for both adults and children who are living with disabilities. If you think your child could benefit from sensory play activities, contact RISE to learn about the early intervention services and the wide variety of developmental services we offer.