Sensory Issues In Kids: How Your FEC Can Host Inclusive Events
If you’re an owner of one of the many indoor family entertainment centers in our area, you know how much children love to bounce. But while the act of bouncing is a fun and healthy activity for all kids, it can be beneficial in many more ways for children with sensory issues.
In this article, learn how your FEC can better serve children with sensory issues, autistic children, their families, and the general community by hosting events that are more inclusive.
Bouncing as a Benefit
It’s no secret that kids of all ages love to bounce. But did you know how beneficial bouncing can be for children with autism, and children with general sensory issues? Here’s how:
- Can Improve Sensory Skills
With too much sensory input, autistic children can become overwhelmed. The repetitive bouncing motion inside an indoor bounce house helps to alleviate that by making a connection between the mind and body. That connection helps to interpret signals in a productive way, which is why sensory bounce therapy is used.
- Can Relieve Stress
Many people are aware that exercise can do wonders to bring down stress in general. For children with autism who often find themselves stressed and anxious, bouncing has the same effect. This exercise helps develop muscles all over the body, and over time, kids who bounce can develop more confidence, too. And more confidence tends to mean less stress!
- Can Help Kids Relate
Oftentimes, kids on the spectrum don’t have an easy time relating to their peers or forming friendships. But bouncing in a bounce house can totally change that by helping them engage inside a stress-free environment with no pressure.
- Can Help Autistic Children Calm Down
You may think that having a child bounce would do the exact opposite of calming them down, but actually the bouncing channels the nervous energy out of the child’s body and relaxes their mind simultaneously. After just a few minutes of bouncing, a child is likely to feel calmer and more at ease. This can also help with concentration and focus.
- It’s Good Exercise
Children with autism bounce naturally, and doing so in an inflatable bounce house is a great way to strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons - all the while passively teaching them how to interact with the world around them. It’s a great way for autistic children to get their energy out in a positive way that feels good.
Modifications for a Better, More Inclusive Future
You’ve learned how children with autism can have a tough time absorbing information from their senses - some are oversensitive in the way that bright lights, loud sounds, and scratchy clothing might irritate and overwhelm them, while some may need a large amount of sensory input in order to feel comfortable.
While children with autism may have special needs, there’s no reason for them to be left out of the fun that occurs at FECs. Even though FECs provide an atmosphere in which autistic children are not typically comfortable (unpredictable environments, a lot of people, excessive noise, unfamiliar food, and stimulating activities), there are many ways in which you can modify your facility to make sure they’re included.
Here are some modifications that will make sure a party at your FEC is fun for everyone:
- Make a Schedule
- When children with autism know what to expect, they have the space to prepare themselves ahead of time. They’ll also have a chance to be aware of an activity they’d rather skip.
- Avoid Loud/Unpredictable Party Favors
- Noisemakers and party poppers can be triggers for autistic children, and balloons can be, too. Going light on these sorts of favors will be a big help, as children on the spectrum may be fearful of them. Not having them around makes for a more comfortable environment.
- Create Activity Zones
- Allowing children to move between games and activities keeps them from becoming overwhelmed. If you have music or dancing at your FEC, place it apart from the rest of the activities. You can also include a quiet room with comfortable chairs and simple crafts, so if kids need a break, they have a place to go.
- Serve Finger Food
- Serving easy-to-eat food allows kids to pick out what they like and skip what they don’t.
- Don’t Force the Birthday Song
- Everyone knows how popular the ‘happy birthday’ song is at birthday parties, but avoid the urge to make it a requirement. Those who want to sing can sing, but children on the spectrum may not want to join in. It’s also okay if they want to leave the space entirely, as they may choose to celebrate the birthday boy or girl in a different way.
Now that you know some planning modifications you can make for your FEC, it’s time to move onto activities that suit all children. Here are some sensory-friendly party activities that everyone will enjoy:
- Lots of Movement and Bouncing
- This is where inflatable bounce houses come in! Remember to keep the number of kids participating at a minimum; you don’t want things to get out of hand or for the children to become overstimulated. Setting a timer works well as it provides structure for kids and helps them handle the excitement in a productive manner. And kids can come back for as many turns as they’d like!
- Water Activities
- Whether you have the space for a splash pad or a water table, water is a great way to engage the senses and get kids involved.
- Scavenger Hunts
- Scavenger hunts are a great, collaborative choice for children. Rather than a competition, make it a fun exercise where kids can follow structure (clues) and work together.
- Organize a craft area with materials that each child will need in a separate place, ready for them to begin. Have a finished model of the craft prepared to let the kids know that they can use their materials to mimic the model or create something of their own design.
- Finger Painting
- Finger painting tends to be a huge hit for kids who need sensory stimulation, as the feel of it is interesting and satisfying. Set up a big sheet in a large space so kids can get messy creating handprints and splatters.
- A Movie
- Some children can sit through a movie and others can’t. For those who can, create fun individual seating like cars made of cardboard boxes to sit in, and the novelty will make the activity that much more fun. And the individual seating will also help children not to encroach on others’ personal space! During a movie, you can also offer children a small fidget item to keep their hands busy.
An Inclusive FEC
Just like neurotypical children, kids with autism and those with sensory issues want to have fun and join in on the party. They might do so in ways that are unfamiliar to you at your FEC, but it’s never too late to learn how to incorporate unique needs into your family entertainment center. Not only does this strengthen the community and bring children together, it also benefits your business by exemplifying that you have the ability to cater to every family who wants to come have fun at your facility.