The Role of Sensory Play for Children with Autism

a child playing with blue sand

Children with autism often experience sensory sensitivities impacting their daily lives and development. Sensory play, characterized by engaging activities stimulating the senses, holds immense significance in supporting a child’s growth. In this blog post, we’ll delve into why sensory play is crucial for children with autism, backed by research and expert insights, and how Circle City ABA incorporates it into our ABA therapy.

Understanding Sensory Play

Sensory play involves activities stimulating one or more senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. These activities include playing with textured materials, exploring different scents, listening to soothing sounds, or engaging in hands-on creative projects. For children with autism, sensory activities can be particularly beneficial due to their unique sensory processing challenges.

Sensory Sensitivities in Autism

Many children with autism have sensory sensitivities, meaning they can be either hypo-sensitive (under-responsive) or hyper-sensitive (over-responsive) to sensory stimuli. This can lead to behaviors like avoiding certain textures, covering ears in response to sounds, or struggling with transitions due to sensory overload. At Circle City ABA, sensory play provides a controlled environment for them to explore and interact with different sensory experiences at their own pace.

Sensory play is significant in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy due to its potential to enhance the effectiveness of interventions and support the overall development of children with autism. ABA therapy is a structured and evidence-based approach that focuses on teaching and reinforcing desired behaviors while reducing challenging ones. Integrating play into ABA therapy can offer several key benefits.

Why Sensory Exploration Matters

  1. Development of Sensory Integration Skills: Sensory play exposes children to various textures, sounds, and sensations, helping them learn how to process and integrate sensory information more effectively.
  2. Language and Communication Development: Sensory play can encourage verbal and nonverbal communication. It allows children to express their preferences, likes, and dislikes.
  3. Emotional Regulation: Sensory play allows children to self-regulate their emotions and manage stress. It can have a calming effect and help reduce anxiety.
  4. Motor Skills Development: Playing with sand, finger painting, or manipulating objects can enhance fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  5. Social Interaction: Group sensory play sessions can foster social interactions, turn-taking, and cooperation among children, promoting positive peer relationships.
  6. Cognitive Growth: Exploring sensory experiences stimulates cognitive development by encouraging exploration, problem-solving, and creativity.

Sensory play isn’t just about having fun; it’s a powerful tool for promoting the development and well-being of children with autism. Providing a safe and controlled way to engage with sensory experiences empowers the children we serve to navigate the world more confidently and easily.

Remember, each child is unique, so tailoring sensory exploration activities to their preferences and sensitivities is critical to reaping the full benefits of this therapeutic approach. That’s why Circle City ABA individualizes treatment plans and a results-based approach to set every child up for success. Learn more about Circle City ABA’s services and contact us today to start services at one of our many locations.

Our Indiana Locations:



– Schaaf, R. C., Benevides, T. W., Mailloux, Z., Faller, P., Hunt, J., van Hooydonk, E., … Lane, A. E. (2013). An intervention for sensory difficulties in children with autism: A randomized trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(7), 1493–1506.
– American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process (4th ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74(Supplement_2), 7412410010.

About the Author

Heather de Jong

Heather de Jong is an accomplished Marketing & Communications Manager known for her expertise in the I/DD field. With a deep passion for empowering individuals with disabilities, Heather leverages her expertise in marketing and communications to raise awareness about the importance of ABA therapy in improving the lives of children on the autism spectrum.

Recent Posts

Contact Us

For more information and to inquire about starting Indiana ABA Therapy services, fill out the enrollment form on our Contact page, call one of our locations, or use the chat app at the bottom-right of this page.

About Circle City ABA

Circle City ABA specializes in applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism and related conditions. Circle City ABA is a destination where play meets progress and our programs are designed with each child in mind.

The journey begins at initial assessment from our qualified team. Request enrollment information on our contact page.