Meeting My Daughter's Needs Where She Is Through a Sensory Diet and More

Rose, getting in her sensory need to be in a confined space

I love my kids to pieces, but I must admit that the child that is the hardest to parent, is my youngest child, Rose, on the autism spectrum. One of the hardest parts in parenting her is her constant energy, meltdowns, and destruction. Fortunately she just started special ed in an amazing school for kids with autism with a really great staff who are able to help her with many of the issues she's having. At the same time, I realize that I can't expect the school to do everything, and there's things I need to do at home to make our lives run better, as a family.

I joined a few Facebook groups with autistic adults, to ask them advice on how to help my daughter, and my family as a whole. The reason I decided to join such groups is that no one knows autism better than actual autistics, and if you want to understand why autistic kids do certain things and what will help them, the best people to ask are people who tick the same way.

So I explained to them the issues that I was having parenting Rose, and they told me to pay attention more to what was causing her melt downs, what was causing her destruction, etc. And they pointed out that she isn't doing these things in a vacuum, there's some need she has that isn't being met and that's what is causing these behaviors. And often meltdowns are caused by sensory issues, or by being emotionally overloaded from things that are too difficult for her.

One of the biggest issues for me is the destruction in her room. It usually is a disaster zone because of how she treats it. I can clean it up spotless and then the next second it'll be a disaster.

So I noticed specific things she was doing that were problematic. One of them is emptying out her clothing shelf and dumping all her clothes onto the floor, daily. I asked in this autism group why she might be doing that, and one of the things they suggested is that she probably is doing that to try to find clothes she likes, but then gets too overwhelmed by it all to put it back. And they suggested keeping her clothes in smaller containers, divided up into smaller clearly labeled things, so she can find what she wants more easily without dumping everything out. So I'm in the process of figuring that out, because it is quite clear that that's happening.

The second thing I noticed is that sometimes she dumps all her clothing out not because she's looking for something, but because she wants to climb onto the shelf to be in a close confined space (see above).

And then I realized that that's what is missing. Yes, I got her a trampoline which helps her with her seeking for motion, but that's not only what she needs. She also needs to be in close confined spaces.

But I also realized that she wants to create, but she doesn't necessarily have great ways to create that don't also make a big mess. She colors on furniture because she wants large surfaces to color on.

Some people decide to make a room in their house a "sensory room". I don't have a large enough home to be able to dedicate an entire room to sensory needs, but I realized that I could transform the bedroom she's in into a more sensory friendly one.

A really amazing woman gave me a gift card to Amazon to get my children holiday presents, and combined with the free shipping Amazon is now giving to my location, I decided to get things from Amazon to transform her room into a haven for her.

So here's what I got:

Because of my daughter's need for being in closed confined spaces, the reason she empties out shelves in order to climb on them, I got her this body sock which has a similar effect, of confined spaces.

My friend Michelle had a fabric swing made from a woven wrap inside her kids' bedroom which my kids really enjoyed. It also covers your body and makes you feel snuggled, while letting you have the rocking motion. Rose has a swing inside her classroom in school, and I know how much it calms her down.
When trying to find one, I searched on Amazon for a sensory swing, but the ones they had were overpriced and with bad reviews, and I didn't want that. I was thinking, though, how much yoga swings are essentially that, but even better, and I found this yoga swing with great reviews which I showed my kids and they are really excited about. I also hopefully will be able to enjoy this yoga swing.
I will end up needing to pay more than the listed price, because I'll need to pay for a professional to install it, but it'll still be worth it.

Rose also has a need to climb, and has climbed in dangerous ways because of this. For this reason, I decided to buy rock climbing holds make a rock climbing wall in her room, to give her a safe place to climb. I'll need to make or buy a crash pad for under this, but I can just see her enjoying this so much! She loves the rock climbing walls at our local parks. 

To give her a place to color, I decided to put a giant white board on one wall in her room, so that she has an appropriate place to color. I didn't buy this from Amazon, but I'm looking into local options for this.

I'm still looking for more options to make her room even more sensory friendly.

But then I decided to also get some toys that would help with her sensory needs.

So first there's this fidget toy called Tangle that is really wonderful. My kids like to play with it, and quite frankly, I do too. My therapist has this in her office, and there's nothing quite as satisfying playing and fidgeting with it when you're anxious or otherwise stressed. The version she has is covered in little silicon bits and fortunately I found this "Hairy Tangle" that is exactly that. I can't wait for it to arrive. Oh, it twists around and snaps and unsnaps and you can pull at the "hairs" on it. Its the perfect stim toy.

I found this pack of 21 different fidget toy, including also one that is visually stimulating, and the price for all of them combined is amazing. My daughter has been begging me for some of these, and I know she plays with other ones of them at friends houses, so I know how much these will help her sensory needs.

And lastly, Rose really chews on things, many times destroying them, so I decided to get her a 
chewy necklace that she can get out her need to chew on them.

Listen, I know that what I got won't transform our home immediately. There's also a lot more I need to do as a parent to help facilitate things, but I know that these things will be great additions to our home, and I can't wait.

Anyone have kids with sensory issues? What do you do to help your kids with that? If you made a sensory room, what did you put in it? I'll gladly take suggestions!

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. My Aspy had a body sock and loved it to death he used it so much!!! (It lasted years, so don't be worried yours will die on you.)

    We used to have those surgical brushes--they're all silicone, I think--and gently stroke him with those. Lots of spinning and swinging play.

    I have another kid not on the spectrum with sensory issues. She really responds to a massage with lotion.

    1. Massage, what a wonderful idea! No cost and easy to do providing the little one lets/likes.

    2. Just a heads up, those little bear fidget toys are soft and squeezable but get dirty fast and their features rub off. That said good for you for thinking of this and also, what a brilliant idea to join those groups. I think your little one will really benefit from all this. Good for you!

  2. Has she been tested for ADHD? Cos if she has it, it's really important to diagnose it early as medication in childhood has actually been known to "fix" the brain, whereas undiagnosed it can cause serious mental health problems. My daughter has only had ADHD diagnosed as an adult, and has endured a lot of suffering because of that.

    Weighted blankets, lycra clothing, lava lamps or colour changing fairy lights, ear defenders (as well as removing all things that make insidious little noises, like ticking clocks) can all help with sensory processing issues.

    Can she work with chalk? If yes, then painting a wall in chalkboard paint can be a good alternative to a giant whiteboard for drawing and colouring.

    1. She definitely also has ADHD but professionals all agree that she is too young to be on anything like ritalin, that it hasnt been properly tested for kids under the age of six, and first she should start other therapies. If needed, I am open to her going on it in the future.
      I have ADHD and never have been on ADHD meds and never will be on because they mess with other issues I have (making anxiety worse) and I am concerned about that for my daughter as well, to be honest.

      She's not into chalk...

  3. I have to add that I think you and the other children will benefit from your great ideas too!

  4. You can get a huge whiteboard "sticker" on Amazon as big as you need

  5. I'm not sure what is available locally, but we made my 11 yr old a giant whitebooard wall using a shower panel from HomeDepot. It's essentially a large white panel with the right coating and it works like a white board. It was $13. It's a teacher hack around here, when they want to make entire walls white boards, so if you have a place like HomeDepot, you should check!

  6. My (neurotypical) kids loooove having large cardboard boxes to craft with. It's a lot of space to color on, cutting through it with scissors is satisfyingly difficult, and getting inside is nice & cozy. Plus - it's free!

    Bathtub crayons would let you use the tub/shower you already have as art space too.

    I've heard that some autistic kids prefer to sort their clothes by color, or by texture, or by warmth-levelr, or by having each whole outfit folded together. If the clothes are in drawers in a way that makes sense to her unique brain, then it will be easier for her to find them. But if it's the furniture design that's a problem, then changing the drawers for a set of cubbies too small to climb into could lessen the temptation to dump everything.

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