I recently wrote on building the environment for an Autism / Sensory Room inexpensively. This entry will talk about some tactile things that can be a really important part of your sensory room, and how you can do this "on the cheap."
Depending on whether your child is a tactile defensive or a tactile seeker (it is possible to be both), pick and choose which things you think your child would most enjoy. I will put DEFENSIVE ideas in Italic for easy identification.
1. A Sensory Table is a wonderful tactile sensory tool. When buying a product that this would qualify under, you would look for something that would be called a Sand or Water Table which start at around $100 and go up from there. What I would suggest is to pick up a tote designed for under-bed storage. They are inexpensive, have lids, and are easy to store! If you want to be really thrifty, consider using a recycled butter tub for a miniature sensory table! Check out this awesome site that describes 107 different things you can use in your sensory table!
For the tactile defensive, try putting rice or beans or shaving cream into a baggie, and remove the air before sealing. Double bag the baggie, making sure to remove air in the second baggie as well. This allows the person to feel the texture without having it directly against their skin!
2. Tactile Boards are a wonderful addition to any sensory room's tactile collection. You can purchase them from many medical supply and educational supply companies, starting at about $60. Essentially, Tactile Boards are boards that have different textures applied to them. You might find anything from different types of fabric, to sand paper. You can easily make your own by using a piece of wood (any size/shape is fine), and attaching anything that has a unique texture to it. I would use my staple gun or glue gun to attach things. You can also leave some things hanging (like a string of mardi-gras beads) for additional sensory input. Ideas for what to add to your sensory board:
~ Fine-grit Sandpaper, different textured fabrics (silk, lace, courderoy, denim, velvet, etc), carpet, cork, felt, stones, strings of beads, shells, silk flowers, a nylon duster, a toothbrush, a scrub-brush, different textured papers, faux fur, a "squishy ball", etc! (You can use ANYTHING on your sensory board, as long as it is securely attached & safe for your sensory seeker to touch & feel! Don't forget to look at what you have on hand, but also check out the dollar store, free samples for walpaper and fabric, etc. Look here for some ideas!)
3. Fidget Box. Oh there are SO many sensory toy ideas out there. I like to have a fidget box for Abbi, full of things she can just play with and work on figuring out, or sensory seek with them. Try getting a shoe box and filling it with fun tactile items, such as silly putty, moon sand, bouncy balls, vibrating pens, jacks, and surgical scrub brushes (ask your OT or get something similar here). As always, make sure that the items you choose are safe for your sensory-seeker. Here are a few more ideas:
4. Goopy Stuff. Aside from shaving cream (a favorite around here), we also love things like Gak, Moon Sand, and other Goopy things. Rather than buying them new, you can make them for a fraction of the cost, and then you also know exactly what goes in them. Here is a list of fun recipes. For the sensory defensive person, try putting these items in double-bagged Ziplock baggies so that they can experience the squish of it without having it against their skin!
5. Vibration. Lots of sensory kids (both seekers and defensives) tend to like vibration. ANY small hand-held massager will do, but you can also look into fun things like vibrating stuffed animals, or bug-shaped massagers. These not only provide some tactile sensory stimulation but they also help prepare your sensory seeker (and especially your sensory defensive) for coming into contact with more sensory input than they are used to. It is a wonderful tool to use before and after new sensory experiences!
There will be a lot more coming for these Autism/ Sensory room tutorials, so check back. We will be focusing on Vestibular input, Proprioceptive input, Deep Touch tools (to help with overstimulation), Auditory tools, and Visual tools as well as a few others (scent and taste will have their own section too!). I will be adding a reference list to these tutorials on the sidebar for easy access as well. Don't forget to look through the comments on each post for ideas from visitors! Thanks everybody!