Children with special needs, just like all children, are wired to receive and utilize sensory input from day one. This is why many children will dive in hands first, exploring a favorite substance. The senses are their most familiar, most basic way to explore, process, and come to understand new information.
The sensory table was literally the first item that our occupational therapist suggested for sensory play for my boys on the autism spectrum. As a parent, I learned that the more I attended to their sensory play the more appropriately engaged they became and the more they began to learn.
Sensory play tables provide an opportunity for every child with special needs to succeed!
I worked as an Autism and Inclusion Specialist for a large St. Louis school district for nine years. And during that time I observed that no matter whether a child was gifted or delayed, learning a new language or mastering his first, you can’t really fail with a sensory table bin full of beans, dried rice, water, or other substance!
With added sensory experiences, combined with the support of adults and peers, children can become more perceptive. Their sensory intake and processing becomes more acute. And as their senses are engaged, they are building stronger neurological pathways in their brains.
The 3 benefits of a sensory table for your child:
- Sensory play and language–I was amazed at how much my son, Joshua, began to attempt to talk while playing at his sensory table!Giving your child the chance to play with different types of textures,tastes and objects helps them to build new ways of talking about their world. Suddenly the tree is more than a tree, it’s a sapling with smooth bark or it’s a pine tree with rough bark and a sharp-pine scent. Water isn’t just wet, it can be rough (waves) or warm or cold.
- Sensory play and fine motor skills–by exploring preferred items in the sand and/or water, my son Jacob began using pinching, pouring and grasping movements! Fine motor skills are those that require the ability to use and coordinate small muscle groups. Fine motor skills are important for writing, shoe-tying, buttoning and zipping, among other things. Sensory play often involves using and building fine motor skills.
- Sensory play can be calming–sensory play always seemed to have a way of calming Joshua when he became anxious or frustrated child. The simple act of pouring water or running fingers through rice is often cathartic and calming to many children who may be struggling emotionally. It can soothe the nervous child, distract the homesick child, and serve as an outlet for the angry child.
My boys benefitted from having a sensory table, I’d encourage you to take a look below at the Step2 Adjustable Sand and Water Sensory Table link:
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Shannon Colclough says
I love these tables and we used them a lot in our preschool classrooms which is something I think every early childhood classroom should have.