Although water and sand therapy may look like child’s play, it is highly therapeutic for autistic children and they will be more likely to receive the therapy willingly. For most of the children, being in the water doesn’t feel like a chore or like a clinical doctor’s office — it’s fun. Children who shown limited response to other types of therapy may respond well to water and sand therapy. A number of children with autism are sensory avoiders,
which they dislike crumbs, dirt, paint, rocks or anything they unfamiliar with on their skin. These unfamiliar things are like little wailing siren that cannot be turned off. To overcome this, water is always the way in. This is due to the water is easier for children to accept as it is transparent and crystal clear, which cannot make their fingers dirty.Children will get used to it and eventually touch all of it. Besides, water is not just wet, it can be rough or warm or cold. It can be used to stimulate children’s senses.
Sand, on the other hand, is suitable for the autistic children that are sensitive to sensory input. These children are sensory seekers that always looking for input. Also, those who constantly seeking sensory input can even roll around and lie in dry sand. In addition, when the water is added into dry sand, it will become wet and soft. Just like kinetic sand, children find the flow of the soft sand pleasing.
Playing with water and sand does not only involve scooping the material, filling buckets and dumping it out again. Children can also try on other activities that listed below that will require them to push, pull, drag or dig repeatedly:
- Hide some objects and find them by digging.
- Pour different volume of water on it to obtain different texture of materials.
- Make use of construction vehicles to make hills, roads and dig hole.
- Prepare some undersea animals toys and make a little marine world.
Three main benefits that can be obtained through water and sand therapy:
- Language: Giving an opportunity for children with autism to play with different types of textures, tastes and objects induces them to speak and communicate, aids them to build new way of talking about their world.
- Fine motor skills: In general, sensory play often involves in using and building fine motor skills. Fine motor skills require the ability to use and coordinate small muscle groups. It is crucial for writing, shoe-tying, buttoning and zipping, among other things. According to the article, by exploring preferred items in the water and sand, children can begin using pinching, pouring and grasping movement.
- Calm emotions: The simple act such as pouring water or running fingers through sand is always cathartic ad calming to many children who may be struggling emotionally. It helps soothing the nervous children and also serve as an outlet for the angry children.