Calming Strategies For Kids With Autism

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Ruben Kesherim
November 16, 2023

Calming Strategies For Kids With Autism

Understanding Autism and Sensory Overload

To effectively calm kids with autism, it's important to first understand what autism is and how sensory overload can manifest in individuals with autism.

What is Autism?

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how a person perceives and interacts with the world around them. It is characterized by challenges in social communication and interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive behaviors.

Children with autism often have unique strengths and abilities, but they may also face difficulties in areas such as social skills, communication, sensory processing, and emotional regulation. It's important to remember that autism is a spectrum, meaning that individuals with autism can have a wide range of abilities and challenges.

Sensory Overload in Autism

Sensory overload is a common experience for individuals with autism. It occurs when an individual's sensory system becomes overwhelmed by the environment or stimuli around them. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and a loss of emotional control.

Sensory overload can manifest in different ways depending on the individual, but some common triggers include loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, crowded spaces, and certain textures. When overwhelmed, individuals with autism may exhibit behaviors such as covering their ears, seeking sensory input, withdrawing, or having meltdowns.

Understanding and addressing sensory overload is crucial in calming kids with autism. By creating a calming environment and implementing specific calming techniques, caregivers and support providers can help individuals with autism feel more comfortable and regulated.

By gaining a deeper understanding of autism and sensory overload, caregivers can better support individuals with autism in managing their challenges and promoting a sense of calm. It's important to remember that each individual with autism is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Patience, flexibility, and a person-centered approach are key when implementing calming techniques for kids with autism.

Importance of Calming Techniques

When it comes to children with autism, calming techniques play a vital role in helping them navigate the challenges associated with sensory overload and anxiety. By incorporating effective calming strategies into their daily routines, caregivers and educators can create a supportive and comfortable environment for children with autism.

Benefits of Calming Techniques

Implementing calming techniques offers a wide range of benefits for children with autism. These techniques help them regulate their emotions, reduce anxiety, and restore a sense of calm. Some key benefits of using calming techniques include:

  • Emotional Regulation: Calming techniques provide children with autism the tools to manage their emotions and reactions in overwhelming situations. By learning effective techniques, they can better cope with stressors and maintain emotional balance.
  • Reduction in Anxiety: Children with autism often experience heightened levels of anxiety due to sensory overload and difficulties with communication. Calming techniques help alleviate anxiety, providing a sense of security and comfort.
  • Improved Focus and Attention: By incorporating calming techniques, children with autism can improve their ability to focus and pay attention. This allows for better engagement in learning activities and social interactions.
  • Enhanced Self-Regulation: Calming techniques empower children with autism to take an active role in self-regulation. These techniques provide a sense of control and independence, leading to increased self-confidence and self-esteem.

Creating a Calming Environment

In addition to specific calming techniques, creating a calming environment is crucial for supporting children with autism. A calming environment minimizes sensory overload and provides a safe space for relaxation. Here are some strategies to create a calming environment:

  • Sensory-Friendly Spaces: Designate specific areas that are free from excessive sensory stimulation. Utilize soft lighting, comfortable seating, and minimize visual distractions to create a soothing environment.
  • Visual Supports: Visual supports, such as visual schedules and social stories, help children with autism understand expectations and transitions. These visual cues provide predictability and reduce anxiety.
  • Calming Music and Relaxation: Incorporate calming music and relaxation techniques into the environment to promote relaxation and stress reduction. Calming music has been shown to have a positive impact on individuals with autism.

By understanding the importance of calming techniques and creating a calming environment, caregivers and educators can provide the necessary support for children with autism. Remember, each child is unique, so it's essential to tailor the calming techniques and environment to their individual needs. With consistency, patience, and a supportive approach, the journey of calming autism can become more manageable and empowering for everyone involved.

Deep Pressure Techniques

For kids with autism, deep pressure techniques can be effective in providing a sense of calm and relaxation. These techniques work by applying gentle pressure to the body, which helps to regulate the sensory system and reduce anxiety. Two common deep pressure techniques are weighted blankets and deep pressure massage.

Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets are specially designed blankets that contain evenly distributed weights throughout. The added weight provides a comforting and calming sensation, similar to a gentle hug. The pressure from the blanket can help to reduce anxiety, improve focus, and promote better sleep quality.

When using a weighted blanket, it's important to select the appropriate weight based on the individual's body size and preferences. As a general guideline, the blanket should be around 10% of the person's body weight. For example, a child weighing 50 pounds would benefit from a 5-pound weighted blanket. It's always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or occupational therapist to determine the most suitable weight.

Deep Pressure Massage

Deep pressure massage involves applying firm, gentle pressure to different parts of the body. This technique can help to relax tense muscles, release tension, and provide a soothing sensation. Deep pressure massage can be performed using various techniques, such as gentle squeezing, rolling movements, or using a massage tool like a massage ball or roller.

When performing deep pressure massage, it's important to respect the individual's sensory preferences and comfort levels. Some may prefer lighter pressure, while others may benefit from deeper pressure. Always communicate with the individual and adjust the pressure accordingly. It's also important to ensure that the massage is performed in a safe and comfortable environment.

By incorporating weighted blankets and deep pressure massage into a calming routine, individuals with autism can experience a reduction in anxiety and an increase in relaxation.

Remember, it's essential to consult with professionals and therapists who specialize in autism to determine the most suitable and effective deep pressure techniques for each individual. Each person is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. By understanding and implementing personalized strategies, we can create a supportive and calming environment for kids with autism.

Sensory Soothing Strategies

For kids with autism, sensory soothing strategies can play a significant role in promoting calmness and reducing anxiety. These strategies focus on creating a sensory-friendly environment and providing sensory toys and tools that aid in relaxation. In this section, we will explore two effective sensory soothing strategies: sensory-friendly spaces and sensory toys and tools.

Sensory-Friendly Spaces

Creating sensory-friendly spaces is essential for providing a calming environment for kids with autism. These spaces are designed to minimize sensory overload and provide a safe haven where children can relax and recharge. Here are some key elements to consider when setting up a sensory-friendly space:

  • Lighting: Soft, dim lighting or natural light can help create a soothing atmosphere. Avoid fluorescent or harsh lighting that may cause discomfort.
  • Noise: Minimize background noise by using soundproofing materials or providing noise-canceling headphones.
  • Textures: Use soft and comfortable materials for seating and flooring. Incorporate tactile elements like plush pillows, weighted blankets, or textured mats to provide a range of sensory experiences.
  • Visuals: Create a visually calming environment by using neutral colors or soothing patterns. Avoid clutter and excessive visual stimuli. Visual supports such as visual schedules and social stories can also be helpful.

Remember, every child with autism is unique, so it's important to tailor the sensory-friendly space to their specific needs and preferences. Regularly observe and adjust the environment as necessary to ensure maximum comfort.

Sensory Toys and Tools

Sensory toys and tools can provide a valuable outlet for sensory exploration and self-regulation. These items can help children with autism manage their sensory needs and promote relaxation. Here are some examples of sensory toys and tools:

  • Fidget toys: These toys provide tactile stimulation and can help redirect restless energy. Fidget spinners, stress balls, or textured objects are popular choices.
  • Weighted items: Weighted blankets, vests, or lap pads provide deep pressure, which can have a calming effect. These items are believed to help children feel more grounded and secure.
  • Chewable items: Chewable necklaces or bracelets can serve as a safe and appropriate option for children who seek oral sensory input.
  • Sensory bins: Sensory bins filled with materials like rice, sand, or water can engage different senses and provide a soothing and interactive experience.

Introduce sensory toys and tools based on your child's preferences and sensory needs. It's essential to supervise their use and ensure that the items are safe and age-appropriate.

By incorporating sensory-friendly spaces and providing sensory toys and tools, caregivers can help create a calming environment that supports the well-being of children with autism.

Visual Supports

For children with autism, visual supports can be incredibly effective in promoting a sense of calm and understanding. Visual supports help to provide structure, enhance communication, and reduce anxiety in individuals on the autism spectrum. Two commonly used visual supports are visual schedules and social stories.

Visual Schedules

Visual schedules are visual representations of a sequence of activities or tasks that a child needs to complete. These schedules use pictures, symbols, or words to help the child understand and anticipate what will happen throughout their day. By providing a clear visual structure, visual schedules can reduce anxiety and help children with autism navigate their daily routines more effectively.

A visual schedule can be created using a variety of materials, such as a whiteboard, a poster, or even a digital device. It's important to tailor the visual schedule to the child's individual needs and preferences. This may involve using actual photographs or illustrations, depending on the child's level of comprehension and communication skills.

By following a visual schedule, children with autism can gain a better sense of predictability and control over their environment. This can lead to increased independence, reduced anxiety, and improved overall functioning.

Social Stories

Social stories are short narratives that are designed to teach children with autism about specific social situations, events, or behaviors. These stories use simple and concise language, accompanied by relevant visuals, to help individuals with autism understand and navigate social interactions. Social stories can be used to address various topics, such as going to the doctor, starting school, or managing emotions.

The purpose of a social story is to provide individuals with autism with a clear and structured explanation of what to expect in a given situation. These stories often include information about appropriate behaviors, expected social cues, and potential challenges that may arise. By reading and discussing social stories, children with autism can develop a better understanding of social norms and expectations.

Social stories can be created by caregivers, teachers, or therapists, and can be personalized to meet the specific needs of the child. It's important to use language and visuals that are age-appropriate and relevant to the child's experiences.

By incorporating visual supports, such as visual schedules and social stories, into the daily routine of children with autism, caregivers and educators can provide them with the tools they need to navigate their world with greater ease and confidence. These visual supports promote understanding, reduce anxiety, and foster a sense of calm amidst the challenges of autism.

Breathing and Mindfulness Techniques

When it comes to calming kids with autism, breathing and mindfulness techniques can be highly effective in promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. These techniques focus on helping children regulate their emotions and achieve a sense of calmness. Two popular techniques in this realm are deep breathing exercises and mindfulness activities.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises are a simple yet powerful tool to help children with autism calm their minds and bodies. These exercises involve taking slow, deep breaths to activate the body's relaxation response. Here are a few deep breathing techniques that can be beneficial:

  • Belly Breathing: Encourage the child to place one hand on their belly and the other on their chest. Instruct them to take a slow breath in through their nose, allowing their belly to rise. Then, exhale slowly through their mouth, letting their belly fall. Repeat this process several times, focusing on the sensation of the breath entering and leaving the body.
  • Counted Breathing: Guide the child to count their breaths as they inhale and exhale. For instance, they can breathe in slowly to the count of four, hold the breath for a moment, and then exhale to the count of four. This rhythmic breathing pattern can be a calming and grounding practice.
  • Shape Breathing: Introduce visual imagery by asking the child to imagine they are tracing a shape with their breath. For example, they can envision drawing a square or a circle as they inhale and exhale. This technique combines deep breathing with visualization, enhancing relaxation.

Mindfulness Activities

Mindfulness activities encourage children with autism to focus their attention on the present moment, promoting a sense of calm and reducing stress. These activities can be practiced in various ways, such as:

  • Mindful Listening: Guide the child to close their eyes and pay attention to the sounds around them. Encourage them to notice each sound without judgment, whether it's the chirping of birds or the sound of their own breath. This practice helps cultivate a sense of awareness and presence.
  • Body Scan: Assist the child in scanning their body from head to toe, paying attention to any sensations or areas of tension. Encourage them to relax each part of their body as they become aware of it. This technique promotes physical and mental relaxation.
  • Mindful Coloring: Engage the child in coloring activities that emphasize focus and attention. Encourage them to observe the colors, the sensation of the crayon on the paper, and the movements of their hand. This mindful coloring practice can be a soothing and creative outlet.

By incorporating breathing and mindfulness techniques into the daily routine, caregivers can provide children with autism effective tools for self-regulation and relaxation. It's important to choose techniques that resonate with the child and to practice them consistently to help them build their coping skills and navigate the challenges they may face.

Positive Reinforcement and Rewards

Positive reinforcement and rewards play a vital role in supporting and calming kids with autism. These techniques can help motivate desired behaviors, provide a sense of accomplishment, and create a positive environment for learning and growth. Two effective strategies for implementing positive reinforcement are using token systems and incorporating rewards and incentives.

Using Token Systems

Token systems involve the use of tokens, such as stickers, stars, or tokens, to visually represent positive behavior or completed tasks. This method allows children with autism to see their progress and work towards earning a predetermined number of tokens. Once they reach their goal, they can exchange the tokens for a larger reward or incentive.

Token systems provide a clear structure and visual representation of progress, which can be particularly helpful for individuals with autism who benefit from visual supports. It helps them understand their achievements and reinforces positive behaviors. The use of tokens also allows for immediate reinforcement, as children can see their progress accumulating throughout the day.

Steps in Implementing Token Systems

  • Identify target behaviors or tasks to reinforce.
  • Determine the number of tokens needed to earn a reward.
  • Choose visual tokens, such as stickers or stars, to represent progress.
  • Create a visual chart or card to track tokens earned.
  • Clearly explain the system to the child and demonstrate how it works.
  • Consistently provide tokens and praise when the target behavior is demonstrated.
  • Allow the child to exchange tokens for a reward or incentive once the predetermined number is reached.

Incorporating Rewards and Incentives

In addition to token systems, incorporating rewards and incentives can further reinforce positive behaviors and provide additional motivation for children with autism. Rewards can be anything that is meaningful and motivating to the child, such as small toys, preferred activities, or special privileges. It's crucial to tailor the rewards to the individual's interests and preferences to maximize their effectiveness.

When selecting rewards, it's important to consider the child's sensory sensitivities and avoid overwhelming or aversive stimuli. For example, if a child is sensitive to loud noises, a reward like a quiet sensory toy or a book may be more appropriate than a noisy electronic device. It's also essential to maintain consistency and ensure that the rewards are given promptly and consistently following the desired behavior.

Incorporating rewards and incentives not only reinforces positive behaviors but also creates a positive association with the desired actions, making it more likely for the child to repeat them in the future.

Remember, the goal of positive reinforcement and rewards is to encourage and support positive behaviors, providing a motivating and calming environment for children with autism. By implementing token systems and incorporating personalized rewards and incentives, caregivers and educators can effectively promote desired behaviors and help children with autism thrive.

Communication and Social Skills

Effective communication and the development of social skills are crucial for children with autism. These skills not only enhance their ability to express their needs and emotions but also facilitate meaningful interactions and connections with others. In this section, we will explore two key aspects of supporting communication and social skills development in children with autism: teaching communication skills and social skills training.

Teaching Communication Skills

Teaching communication skills to children with autism involves a comprehensive approach that caters to their unique needs and abilities. Here are a few strategies that can be beneficial:

  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): AAC systems, such as picture exchange communication systems (PECS) or speech-generating devices, can assist children with autism in expressing themselves when verbal communication is challenging. These systems provide visual supports to facilitate communication and can be customized to meet individual needs.
  • Visual Supports: Visual supports, such as visual schedules and social stories, can help children with autism understand and follow daily routines, navigate social situations, and comprehend abstract concepts. Visual schedules provide a visual representation of the sequence of activities, while social stories use visual and written cues to explain social expectations and appropriate behaviors.
  • Structured Teaching: Structured teaching approaches, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), can be effective in teaching communication skills to children with autism. These techniques break down skills into smaller, manageable steps and provide clear prompts and reinforcement to facilitate learning.

Social Skills Training

Social skills training focuses on helping children with autism develop the necessary skills to interact and engage with others. Here are some strategies commonly used in social skills training:

  • Social Scripts: Social scripts provide children with autism with pre-written or visual cues to guide their social interactions. These scripts can help them understand and practice appropriate social behaviors in various situations.
  • Role-Playing: Role-playing activities allow children to practice social skills in a controlled and supportive environment. Through role-playing, they can learn how to initiate conversations, take turns, and respond appropriately to social cues.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy sessions provide children with opportunities to interact with peers in a structured setting. These sessions focus on specific social skills, such as making eye contact, taking turns, and understanding emotions. Group therapy can help children generalize their social skills and build friendships.

By implementing effective strategies for teaching communication skills and social skills training, children with autism can enhance their ability to communicate effectively and engage in social interactions. It is important to remember that each child is unique, and interventions should be tailored to their specific needs and strengths. Seeking guidance from professionals specializing in autism and speech therapy can provide valuable support in this journey of skill development.

Establishing Routine and Predictability

Establishing a daily structure and routine is crucial for calming kids with autism and providing them with a sense of predictability and security. Routines help create a stable and familiar environment, reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of control. In this section, we will explore the importance of daily structure and routine, as well as effective transition strategies for kids with autism.

Daily Structure and Routine

Having a structured daily routine can greatly benefit children with autism. A consistent schedule provides a clear sequence of activities throughout the day, helping to reduce anxiety and meltdowns. Here are some key elements to consider when establishing a daily routine for a child with autism:

  • Predictability: Maintain a consistent schedule by keeping daily activities, such as mealtimes, school routines, and bedtime, at the same time each day. This predictability helps children know what to expect and provides a sense of security.
  • Visual Supports: Utilize visual schedules to help children understand and anticipate the sequence of activities. Visual schedules can be created using pictures, symbols, or written words, depending on the child's level of understanding.
  • Transitions: Prepare children for transitions between activities by providing visual and auditory cues. Use timers, countdowns, or verbal reminders to signal upcoming transitions. This helps children with autism transition smoothly from one activity to another, reducing stress and resistance.
  • Flexibility: While routines are important, it's essential to allow for some flexibility. Unexpected events or changes may occur, and being adaptable can help children with autism cope with these situations. Use visual supports or social stories to prepare children for changes in the routine.

Transition Strategies

Transitions can be challenging for children with autism, as they may struggle with shifting their focus from one activity to another. Implementing effective transition strategies can help ease the process and reduce anxiety. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Visual Timers: Use visual timers to indicate the remaining time for an activity. Visual timers provide a concrete representation of time and help children understand when a transition is approaching.
  • Visual Cues: Provide visual cues, such as a "finished" card or a checkmark, to indicate the completion of an activity. This helps children understand that it's time to move on to the next task.
  • First-Then Boards: Use first-then boards to visually represent the sequence of activities. This visual tool helps children understand what they need to do first and what will come next, reducing anxiety and improving cooperation.
  • Social Stories: Social stories are visual narratives that describe specific situations or activities in a clear and structured manner. Create social stories to explain upcoming transitions and what is expected during those transitions. This can help children with autism better understand and cope with the changes.

By establishing a structured daily routine and implementing effective transition strategies, caregivers and educators can provide a sense of predictability and support for children with autism. Remember to tailor these strategies to the individual needs and preferences of each child. Consistency, visual supports, and clear communication play key roles in creating a calming environment for children with autism.


Teaching writing to students with autism involves using tailored strategies to help them express themselves effectively. These strategies can include breaking down the writing process into manageable steps, providing clear instructions, and using visual supports.

It's essential to recognize each student's unique strengths and challenges and create a supportive and inclusive learning environment to foster their writing skills. With patience, understanding, and the right techniques, students with autism can develop their writing abilities and find their voice through the written word.


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