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Sensory Play to Ignite Your Non-Speaking Child's Speech

c kids thrive ignite communication institute Feb 17, 2023

Sensory Play to Ignite Your Non-Speaking Child's Speech

If you have wondered how to unlock your non-speaking child's communication; this article is for you.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Sensory Play-brief introduction to key sensory systems?
  2. Why use Sensory Play to unlock speech?
  3. How to use Sensory Play to ignite your non-speaking child's speech (via mouth words, AAC, & signing)

1.What is Sensory Play?

Sensory Play is following your child's lead in playing in ways that delight the senses and give regulating bio-feedback. There are 8 sensory systems involved in sensory play

  1. Visual (sight)
  2. Auditory (sound)
  3. Olfactory (smell)
  4. Gustatory (taste)
  5. Tactile (touch)
  6. Interoceptive (internal)
  7. Vestibular (balance & spacial orientation)
  8. Proprioception (movement)


Short story to demonstrate Sensory Play in real life:

We, my best friend and I, arrived to the top of the mountain and drunk in the view of snow-capped mountains as far as the eye could see. The guide led us along the pathway towards the ancient monuments. We were the only people on the whole mountain. I floated along as if in a dream; this was my first time seeing snow…and it was everywhere…the air was crisp…and all sounds were muffled and soft; except for the satisfying crisp crunch of my boots breaking through the fresh snow.

We came to the first massive, stone head poking out of the snow and I tilted my head back to look up at the impassive expression. Eons it has stood guard over this remote land and watched the snow fall. We walked past in awe to the next group of ancient wonders…but we weren’t alone. Another couple of tourists and their guide were exploring the wonders. To this day I don’t know how it started…who threw the first missile…I found myself frantically scooping up snow to make my first snow ball and hurl it at these strangers…laughing so hard my face was cracking in the cold air. Why am I telling you this? Because this memory is a wonderful example of sensory play and it's ability to connect people; and is one of the key ways I unlock a non-speaking child's speech.

Short story to demonstrate Sensory Play with a minimally speaking child

I walked into a room to meet a 6 year old autistic boy for the first time. His eyes skidded past me and he went back to climbing on the sofa. I stood next to the sofa and watched him flop onto his back. Putting my hand out towards his upturned feet I watched his body language intently. He glanced at me for longer and I gently tickled his upturned feet. He smiled and looked directly at me with interest. Moving away I started to play with a ball and he followed me. From that moment on we switched between different sensory activities depending on what he was interested in (Hoberman Sphere, physical play, bubbles etc). After 5 mintues he was repeating every word I spotlighted, without prompts or coercion. He said the words because he was engaged, leading the play, and because his sensory systems were regulated; therefore his frontal cortex could focus on learning language and connection. 

2. Why Use Sensory Play To Ignite Speech

Sensory Play is a powerful way to engage your non-speaking (or minimally speaking) child's speech and is regulating. It helps your child be in the learning and connection zone needed for learning new skills. 

3. How To Use Sensory Play To Unlock Speech

An updated video will be posted soon, outlining ways to use sensory play to unlock speech.

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