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Motor Sensory Interventions for Autism

Children with autism playing with a parachuteWeighted VestWoman in flotation tankHeadphonesMultisensory environment

This page provides links to information about some of the motor/sensory interventions commonly used to help people on the autism spectrum.


What are motor/sensory interventions?

Motor interventions refer to any treatments and therapies which make use of, or which aim to improve, motor functioning, that is, control, coordination and movement of the whole body or parts of the body.

Sensory interventions refer to any treatments and therapies which make use of, or which aim to improve sensitivity to, one or more of the senses.

Some interventions - such as sensory integrative therapy - may use a range of motor and sensory techniques and be designed to improve a range of motor and sensory functions.

Some health-care professionals (such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists), some parents and carers, and some autistic people may deliver one or more motor-sensory interventions.


Combined-Multi Component Therapies

There are a number of approaches which use a wide range of motor and sensory techniques including

  • Occupational Therapy: the treatment of physical and psychiatric conditions using specific, purposeful activity to prevent disability and promote independent function.
  • Physiotherapy (also known as physical therapy): the use of movement as a way of assessing and improving the health and well-being of individuals.

There are also a number of interventions which use a wide range of motor and sensory techniques including

  • The low arousal approach: a multi-component intervention which uses a variety of techniques to deal with challenging behaviours.
  • Restricted environmental stimulation therapy: an intervention based around sensory deprivation, that is, minimising sensory inputs such as sound, lights and smells.
  • Multi-sensory environments: an artificially-created area, such as a room or a pool, which contains equipment and materials designed to stimulate the senses.
  • Sensory integrative therapy: a programme which usually involves a combination of different elements such as wearing a weighted vest, riding a scooter board, etc. 

More information

Please see 

Please see also the section on Standard Health Care for information about Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy


Physical Activities

There are many interventions based around physical activities undertaken by the autistic person. Some of those activities may be very energetic (such as trampolining) while others may be less energetic (such as yoga).

Specific types of physical activities include

  • Sports-based activities such running or jogging
  • Martial arts-based activities such as tai chi
  • Mind-body medicine such as yoga
  • Creative therapies such as dance movement therapy.
  • Other interventions in which physical activity is a significant component

More information

Please see 

Please see also


Manipulation

Manipulation-based interventions include a range of treatments and therapies in which someone other than the patient manipulates or moves the patient's body or parts of it.

Manipulative interventions focus primarily on the structures and systems of the body, including the bones and joints, soft tissues, and circulatory and lymphatic systems.

Specific manipulative practices include

  • acupuncture, a therapy which involves inserting and manipulating needles into "acupuncture points" on the body.
  • chiropractic, therapy concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
  • craniosacral therapy, thereapy which uses very light touching to balance the craniosacral system (the bones, nerves, fluids, and connective tissues of the cranium and spinal area)
  • massage, practice of applying pressure, tension, motion, or vibration to the skin, muscles and other soft tissues of the body
  • osteopathy, therapy based on manipulation of the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues
  • patterning therapies, treatments which involve a series of bodily exercises, and other activities, which are intended to 'rewire' the brain.

More information

Please see 


Hearing

Sound-based interventions are any treatments and therapies which use sound as an intervention technique or which are designed to help someone deal with their hearing sensitivity. 

Noise-reducing headphones are headphones which are designed to reduce ambient noise (noise generated by the environment). The materials of the headphones themselves block out some sound waves, especially those at higher frequencies. They also add an extra level of noise reduction by actively erasing lower-frequency sound waves. 

Auditory integration training programmes involves a person listening to a selection of music which has been electronically modified. AIT is designed to improve the person's ability to process sounds by 're-educating' the brain. This is done by playing electronically modified music in which the frequencies have been changed.

More information

Please see 


Sight

Sight-based interventions are any treatments and therapies which use sight as an intervention technique or which are designed to help someone improve their sight and visual processing skills. Sight-based interventions include

  • Interventions based around lenses including
    • ambient prism lenses,which are designed to improve the visual system related to spatial organisation.
    • coloured filters, which are desigjned to block the specific wavelengths of light to which an individual is sensitive.
  • Interventions based around lights including lightwave stimulation, a therapy which uses coloured lights produced by a special machine.
  • Interventions based around overlays, clear plastic sheets that can be placed on top of reading materials, such as books or newspapers. 
  • Visual supports refer to the presentation of information in a visually structured manner, that is, using pictures and photos, to make it easier to understand.

More information

Please see 


Smell and Taste

Smell-based interventions are any treatments and therapies which use smell as an intervention technique or which are designed to help someone deal with their sensitivity to smells. 

Specific interventions include aromatherapy, which is the use of aromatic plant oils to improve health and well-being. The oils can be used in a variety of ways including through massage, baths and inhalations.

Taste-based interventions are any treatments and therapies which use taste as an intervention technique or which are designed to help someone deal with their sensitivity to taste.

More information

Please see publications on Aromatherapy


Touch

Touch-based interventions are any treatments and therapies which use touch as an intervention technique or which are designed to help someone deal with their tactile sensitivity.

Touch-based interventions include deep pressure interventions such as brushing, the hug machine and weighted items such as blankets and vests.

Touch-based interventions also include some manipulation-based interventions such as massage therapy.

More information

Please see our evaluation of Weighted Items


Related Pages

Related Glossaries


Quick link:
http://www.researchautism.net/motor-sensory-interventions
Updated
13 Feb 2019