Support, Communication, Therapy & Play

Click on the topics below to view helpful tips and ideas to support your child.

  • KCC site with links to SEN-specific activities, including accessible parking information.
    It also offers access to activities such as bowling, trampolining, cinema, etc, and includes advice on how to apply for a CEA card (where young people with SEN can get free access).
    Click here for information
  • A great resource for families/carers when planning a day out. It has a map highlighting all public places/venues with accessible changing rooms, including beds, hoist,s and quite often with shower facilities too. Inadequate changing facilities can make the difference between a child or young person being able to go out for the day, so this is a really valuable resource for carers.
    Click here for information
  • A search tool to find wheelchair accessible parking spots.
    Click here for information
  • A search tool to find accessible restaurants, shops, cinemas, hospitals, hotels, and more.
    Click here for information
  • A site for disabled people, their families, friends, and carers, to find and share reviews on venues’ accessibility.
    Click here for information
  • Strive summer camp, based in Medway, run SEND-specific activities through the summer and have really good reviews on Trust Pilot.
    Click here for information

Charities can provide family days out, events, activity groups, plus family advice. Click on the links below to go to each charity’s website, for more information.

At Milestone we follow an assessment and program setting process for regulation through movement. It is through SMILE programs accessing movements/activities from three areas of differing input: Alerting, Organising and Calming. This can obviously be quite difficult to do at home. Here we have provided some information to incorporate some aspects of what we put in place at school to calm or alert students that can be carried out at home. If your child already has a SMILE or Sensory Circuit program written by a specialist such as an occupational therapist or by your child’s class teacher carry on following that individually prescribed activity list.

Stress and anxiety can only be reduced when the trigger or the contributing factors to it are lowered. However exercise and certain activities lead to –

  • Better health
  • May reduce the likelihood of depression
  • May reduce cognitive decline
  • Improves the ability and/or quality of sleep
  • Lower physical effects of stress and anxiety (not cognitive or emotionally) through the release of endorphins
  • Improve focus
  • Improve ability or allowing for self or to mutually (supported) regulated

When and how long to do these activities

These sessions are always a good idea to plan into the structure of your day. However if you or your child feel the need to put it in place at a different point go for it as long as the change does not cause increased anxiety. We try to schedule once in the morning and once in the afternoon where needed, for some students it is just where needed. These sessions should last about 10-15 mins.

Alerting muscle work (Waking up/livening up/stimulating/exciting)

When it comes to providing alerting sensory input through movement, focus on faster, less predictable movement activities rather than rhythmic, linear movement. This is often provided to encourage more movement or alertness. When used alone with a child who tends to be hyperactive it can increase hyperactivity without implementing heavy muscle work and organising activities.

Organising activities (focus on more complex movement and more difficult activities, used with all students)

Organising activities are used to help people to focus. It may help focus the appropriate level of stimulation prior to calming activities to get educational activities completed. Organising activities followed by calming activities is needed to start accessing more difficult tasks that require more processing. The main aim is that the person doing the activity has to organise their thoughts for their body to complete a more difficult movement task such as balancing, large drawing/colouring or even cleaning a window. To regain focus.

Heavy muscle work (Calming/tiring muscles, main focus at Milestone)

Heavy muscle work is anything where the body slowly pushes or pulls or receives massage. Its name might give the impression of being hard to do, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, it can be therapeutic for children with autism, helping them feel calmer and prepared for the day ahead. These are calming activities.

Putting into practice

We follow a slightly different process at school but this should apply well in the home/garden environment especially when combined with the structure/visual and motivator aspects from the link at the top of the page.

The basic process is:

  1. Alerting activity
  2. Organising activity
  3. Heavy muscle (Calming) activity

The aim is to use exercises/movements/activities in this order. At Milestone we tend to keep to three and then return to scheduled activities. We would have this carefully communicated with students using a visual approach. The three activities placed left to right, when one activity is completed remove the symbol or the activity to communicate that it is finished.


  1. Skipping or trampet (Alert)
  2. Wobble balance board (Organising)
  3. Rolling on side or pulling self along a bench (Heavy muscle)

Finish and move onto your daily schedule.

Examples of activities that can be done at home, arranged in the Alert, Organising and Heavy and groups for you to select from to create three stages of activities at home, remember students will find some activities Alerting or Calming. Every student is different, we sometimes offer our more active and more difficult to regulate children 1 organising activity and followed by 2 calming heavy muscle work activities (Point to note is that some heavy muscle work for some may require some organising processing, everyone is different)

  1. Alert– (Please note, we do not often put these aspects in place in programs for our students due to these ‘livening up’ students, but a managed amount of alerting activities can be positive for all especially when used hand in hand with Heavy muscle work and Organising activities). Activities include: Trampet, space hopper, hopscotch, parachute play, rolling on an exercise ball (could possibly sit on a football), jumping, skipping rope, ball games, target throwing, vigorous play (my child is having lightsaber battles with me for this, it makes him very excitable, I do not recommend that!), bike, bouncing of any kind such as on a ball or sofa cushion, Twister, blowing bubbles and popping them and dancing.
  2. Organising– Funny walks: animal walks, egg and spoon walk, throw and catch while on a balance board, balance board, walk along bench, pass bean bag round leg, behind back, infinity walk: walk round 2 chairs, in and out in a figure of eight, repeat with eyes closed, stand inside a hula hoop that is on the ground, spin, without going outside the hoop, stop, stand still. Press hands down on head, bend a rope into different shapes and walk along it, jump over rope from side to side, obstacle courses: go over and under a chair, climb over a chair, through a hoop, then roll on a mat or the floor, commando crawling, scrubbing floors, cleaning windows, Simon says game, wall drawing.
  3. Heavy muscle– Student lying on front and rolling a large ball across back slowly, shoulder massage, laying under a weighted blanket if you have one (please speak to an occupational therapist for prescription), wall press ups, press ups, squats, child placing hands on own head and pushing down gently, crawling on hands and feet slowly, crawling, row row the boat slowly with the emphasis on the slow pull, laying on stomach on stability ball letting their head hang downwards, pulling an exercise band, hand or foot massage, squeezing cornflour, laying under cushions and the cushions being gently pressed down on back and the hamstrings, sitting/laying in a quiet dark space.

Movement breaks and exercise

Movement breaks are brief intervals that enable all students to move their bodies and help teachers and tutors to engage learners in physical ways. Activities include-


Some individuals find some activities over stimulating and then increase hyperactiveness. For example running fast can cause students to become restless and unable to return to classroom work. When this occurs there is a plan put in place such as a relaxing time blowing bubbles, massage and squeezing objects like cuddly toys. This gives the muscles movement or pressure while the heart rate can decrease allowing opportunity to calm. If an activity becomes too over stimulating we reduce participation in that activity.

Stress relieving tension and relaxation-

This is quite a common form of short term reduction of the physical effects of stress and anxiety in your muscular system.

Using Isometrics, tensing muscles without movement:

Here’s how:

  1. In a seated position, place your palms together with a person opposite you. Push your palms against each other for a few seconds. (Parent or teacher says, “Push”). Then relax for a few seconds. (Parent or teacher says, “Relax”). Repeat 3 to 5 times. Remember the aim is to achieve lots of heavy work input to the joints and muscles, so decide on the number of repetitions accordingly.
  2. Next, curl the fingers on each hand to form a semi-circle. Rotate one hand toward your body and one hand away from your body. Interlock your fingers, imitating a position of an opera singer. Pull your elbows in the opposite directions whilst keeping your fingers interlocked for a few seconds. Relax for a few seconds and repeat at least 3 to 5 times. In the opera singer position, switch hands so the hand that was on top is now on the bottom. (Parent or teacher continues throughout the steps of the isometrics to say, “Push” and “relax”).
  3. Place hands on seat of chair by thighs and lift bottom off seat of chair by straightening arms. (Parent or teacher says, “Push”). Then relax for a few seconds. (Parent or teacher says, “Relax”). Repeat 3 to 5 times.
  4. Extra Calming Stage: Parent / teacher stands behind the student and presses firmly down through shoulders using palms of hand. Maintain the pressure for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Breathing activities to try yourself or with those that are able to

Seagull Breathing

My personal favourite to try with students- The technique of the ‘one-armed seagull’ a brilliant visual exercise using the steady rise and fall of your arm to help calm the breathing rate of a person suffering with a panic attack.

Lengthen your exhale

Inhaling deeply may not always calm you down. Taking a deep breath in is actually linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response. But exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, which influences our body’s ability to relax and calm down.

Taking too many deep breaths too quickly can actually cause you to hyperventilate. Hyperventilation decreases the amount of oxygen-rich blood that flows to your brain.

When we feel anxious or under stress, it’s easier to breathe too much and end up hyperventilating — even if we’re trying to do the opposite.

  1. Before you take a big, deep breath, try a thorough exhale instead. Push all the air out of your lungs, then simply let your lungs do their work inhaling air.
  2. Next, try spending a little bit longer exhaling than you do inhaling. For example, try inhaling for four seconds, then exhale for six.
  3. Try doing this for two to five minutes.

This technique can be done in any position that’s comfortable for you, including standing, sitting, or lying down.

Practice belly breathing

  1. Sit or lie down as described above.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach somewhere above your belly button.
  3. Breathe in through your nose, noticing your stomach rise. Your chest should remain relatively still.
  4. Purse your lips and exhale through your mouth. Try engaging your stomach muscles to push air out at the end of the breath.

For this type of breathing to become automatic, you’ll need to practice it daily. Try doing the exercise three or four times a day for up to 10 minutes.

If you haven’t been using your diaphragm to breathe, you may feel tired at first. It’ll get easier with practice though.

Breath focus

When deep breathing is focused and slow, it can help reduce anxiety. You can do this technique by sitting or lying down in a quiet, comfortable location. Then:

  1. Notice how it feels when you inhale and exhale normally. Mentally scan your body. You might feel tension in your body that you never noticed.
  2. Take a slow, deep breath through your nose.
  3. Notice your belly and upper body expanding.
  4. Exhale in whatever way is most comfortable for you, sighing if you wish.
  5. Do this for several minutes, paying attention to the rise and fall of your belly.
  6. Choose a word to focus on and vocalize during your exhale. Words like “safe” and “calm” can be effective.
  7. Imagine your inhale washing over you like a gentle wave.
  8. Imagine your exhale carrying negative and upsetting thoughts and energy away from you.
  9. When you get distracted, gently bring your attention back to your breath and your words.

Practice this technique for up to 20 minutes daily when you can.

Resonant breathing

Resonant breathing, also called coherent breathing, can help you calm anxiety and get into a relaxed state. To try it yourself:

  1. Lie down and close your eyes.
  2. Gently breathe in through your nose, mouth closed, for a count of six seconds.
  3. Don’t fill your lungs too full of air.
  4. Exhale for six seconds, allowing your breath to leave your body slowly and gently. Don’t force it.
  5. Continue for up to 10 minutes.
  6. Take a few additional minutes to be still and focus on how your body feels.

Guided meditation

Some people use guided meditation to alleviate anxiety by interrupting patterns of thinking that perpetuate stress.

You can practice guided meditation by sitting or lying in a cool, dark, comfortable place and relaxing. Then, listen to calming recordings while relaxing your body and steadying your breathing.

Guided meditation recordings help take you through the steps of visualizing a calmer, less stressed reality. It can also help you gain control over intrusive thoughts that trigger anxiety.

Successful Hair Cutting

Before your child’s haircut you may want to think about the following:

  • Speak with the salon manager about just coming in so that your child can be acquainted with the environment
  • Schedule an appointment during a time when the salon is not as crowded so there are less distractions.
  • Identify reinforcers or preferred items that your child likes. For some children it’s a favourite toy or book, but for others it may be a treat. Your child can earn the item as a result of successfully completing the steps requested. For some children this may mean all the steps necessary for getting a haircut, for others it may mean to complete a predetermined number of steps. As these steps are mastered more steps can be added until the haircut is successfully completed. It is important that your child is successful and has earned the reward at the end of the sessions. This way the experience may be remembered as positive.
  • Take a digital picture of the reinforcer or preferred item to remind your child what they are earning.
  • Review the steps of getting a haircut with your child
  • Practice the steps of getting a haircut with your child at home before bringing your child in for a haircut.
  • Get your child’s sensory system ‘ready’ for haircutting by using ‘deep pressure’ (proprioceptive) activities before you attempt a haircut. Some deep pressure activities may include:
    • Firm ‘bear’ hugs: Squeezing your child between large cushions or pillows
      Rolling a gym ball or roll over them using a firm pressure.
      Giving your child a firm, predictable massage over their back, shoulders and arms and work up to their head. When massaging your child’s body go with the direction of the hair growth rather than against it.
    • Wilbarger Therapressure Protocol (if you have been trained to do this by your child’s OT)
  • When drying their hair use firm strokes rather than light touch. Firm touch is more organizing and calming than light touch. Some children can find light touch quite alarming. The same principles apply when you are drying down your child after their bath/shower/swimming – apply firm strokes with the towel over their body
  • At other times, when you are sitting down with your child, e.g. watching TV, give them a head massage. This will help them get accustomed to having their head/hair touched. Start at the back and shoulders and move up to the head, using consistent and firm pressure.
  • If you visit a hairdresser choose one that is understanding. Consider the use of motivating distractions that may help keep your child calm, such as their favourite music, could the salon play their favourite DVD?, iPad/iPod, etc.
  • If you visit a hairdresser, drive past the salon on your way to the shops, school, etc. If you walk your child you could walk past the salon regularly so that your child becomes familiar with the area.

Using a Visual Schedule

Children with autism often benefit from visual supports and schedules. The visual schedule here outlines the steps necessary to get a haircut. Families are welcome to copy the pictures and create a visual schedule for their child. You can copy the schedule and check off the activities as they occur. Alternatively you may like to take a series of your own photos depicting the specific salon or hairdresser you use, and create your own schedule using a similar format.

The pages can be laminated and a dry erase marker can be used to check off each activity. This way the page can be reused for each visit. Alternatively you may like to cut out the photos and laminate them, and place Velcro on the back of each picture. The photos are arranged in sequential order on a board, as each step is completed the picture can be removed.

Some children may need to be reinforced with verbal praise, a preferred item, or a treat after each step. Others may be able to complete some, many or all of the steps before verbal praise or a treat is given. Each child will need to work at their own pace to achieve the skills necessary to get a haircut.

Create a visual schedule for your child using steps such as: go to salon, check in, meet stylist, sit in chair, hands in lap, spray hair with water, comb hair, trim hair, reward for a good job.

Home Care & Grooming

To make home hair care more enjoyable for your child, here are some tips to ensure the experience goes smoothly:

  • Show the shampoo to your child. Let them smell and touch the shampoo. If you are going to use conditioner repeat the same process.
  • For shampoo and bath time you need to make this time fun but quick. Let the child have a bath toy to play with for comfort. Some families use an all-in-one shampoo and body wash product, which can make the process easier and quicker.
  • Give consideration to the perfume/smell of a shampoo or conditioner if your child is particularly averse or sensitive to certain smells. Conversely, consider trying to find a shampoo that has the aroma of a favourite (and calming) smell (e.g. strawberry)to make the experience more pleasurable.
  • If your child is sensitive to having their hair combed, use a leave-in spray detangler or conditioner. Using a detangling product means there is nothing to rinse out of your child’s hair and it will make combing their hair easier.
  • Comb your child’s hair with a wide-tooth comb, this will create less tension on your child’s hair and be more comfortable.
  • If you are going to apply a styling product on the hair, repeat the same process of showing them the product. Let them it smell and touch it and then apply the product to the hair.
  • To dry your child’s hair, first show them the hairdryer and turn the dryer onto a warm (not high/hot) setting with a lower speed. Blow some warm air on your child’s hands or arms so they can feel that it’s warm and will not hurt. This will also forewarn them that you are about to start drying their hair – so not startle or frighten them. Only when your child is comfortable with the hairdryer proceed with drying their hair.
  • If you want to use a brush to assist with the drying, use a paddle or vent brush. These types of brushes will not put added tension on the hair. Help your child to be involved in the hair care routine.
  • When brushing or combing longer hair, start by combing out the ends of the hair first and then slowly work your way up towards the scalp. This will help to gently remove tangles and minimize any pulling on the hair.
  1. Make reading to your child feel like a treat. Introduce each new book with excitement.
  2. Make it a special quiet time and cuddle up so both of you can see the book.
  3. Show curiosity in what you’re going to read: “Oh no! I think Arthur is going to get even angrier now.”
  4. Read the whole story the first time through without stopping too much. If you think your child might not understand something, model an explanation: “Oh I think what’s happening here is that…”
  5. Care about the story: “I wonder why he did that?”, “Oh no, I hope she’s not going to…”, “I wouldn’t have done that, would you?”
  6. Avoid asking questions to test what your child remembers.
  7. Link stories to your own experiences (e.g. this reminds me of…).
  8. Read favourite stories over and over again. Get your child to join in with the bits they know.
  9. Read with enthusiasm. Don’t be embarrassed to try out different voices. Your child will love it.
  10. Read with enjoyment. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re child won’t.

Pocketing of food in the cheeks can stem from under-development of oral-motor skills in the jaw, mouth and/or tongue which can make chewing difficult, especially with tougher foods (like meat). Such issues would be addressed by a Speech and Language Therapist.

Pocketing can also occur when a child tries to avoid eating certain foods due to an aversion to tastes or textures, whilst overstuffing itself may involve a variety of factors including behavioural issues, extreme hunger, sensory cravings and/or a lack of sensory awareness. If hunger and sensory cravings can be ruled out, the child may simply be overstuffing his/her mouth with favourite foods.

However, if there are indications that your child has sensory-processing difficulties it is more likely that overstuffing is linked to poor processing of oral-motor sensations which, ordinarily, would tell your child when their mouth is full and they need to start chewing. The lack of registration of these oral sensory sensations can result in your child not getting that full mouth sensation until their mouth is overstuffed to maximum capacity. Once this occurs (as for any child) there is the realization that they can’t handle the amount he/she has stuffed into their mouth, they become anxious and are afraid to swallow. As a result your child may choke or gag.

“Table manners” are important for social acceptance, but managing the potential dangers of choking is the greater priority. It will be helpful therefore to explore a range of strategies in the hopes of identifying particular interventions which can help.

To address poor registration of oral-motor sensation due to a high sensory threshold there is the need to help “wake up” the oral senses before a meal by providing deep pressure proprioceptive (resistive) input to the mouth, teeth and jaw.

‘Waking up’ the Senses Before Eating

Below are some suggestions to try before food is offered.

  • High Intensity Input

Provide a carbonated and/or iced drink or a small amount of intensely flavoursome or high-textured food. For example, a bite of something quite sour, spicy or crunchy, such as pretzels or crackers, or celery or carrot sticks (especially if chilled).

  • Chews and Toothbrushes

Try the use of a ‘chew’, which may be appropriate on occasions. To gain the most proprioceptive input a chew with an additional bumpy ‘texture’ is advised. There is an increasing range of chews available on the market and a few are suggested below.

Use of ‘Chewies’: Make a chew available throughout the day for the child, so that he/she can choose when they want to chew or bite on it. But 5 mins prior to a meal is the ideal time, to prepare and ‘alert’ the child’s mouth and sensory system ready for eating. With greater awareness of his/her mouth they may self-regulate their oral intake better. See below for examples.

An image of example 'chewies'

As an alternative to a ‘chew’ try a medium/hard Toothbrush or something like a Bug Brush Toothbrush to chew on prior to a snack or meal. These can be simply chewed on or dipped in cold water for additional ‘impact’. See image of a Bug Brush Toothbrush.

Battery-Powered or Electric Toothbrush, and Z-Vibe

The Z-Vibe is a therapeutic tool designed to develop oral-motor control to assist with speech production difficulties. But it can also form part of an oral de-sensitization programme as well as an ‘alerting’ programme when there is poor processing and registration of oral-motor sensations.

Vibration sensations can provide intense proprioceptive input to wake up the sensory system. Therefore the trial of a battery-powered toothbrush (with or without toothpaste) prior to a meal can be beneficial. A Z-vibe provides gentle vibration which can be helpful for those with oral/tactile defensiveness. But to alert the mouth, teeth and jaw, when oral sensitivity is not an issue, the stronger vibrations of a simple battery-powered toothbrush may achieve a better result (before more expensive electric toothbrush options are considered).

(If you require more specific information about this please contact the Therapy Lead)

See image of a Z-Vibe toothbrush.

An image of a Bug Brush Toothbrush
An image of a Z-Vibe toothbrush

Other Sensory, Visual or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy-based (CBT) Strategies to Try at Mealtimes include:

  • Encourage Sips Between Bites

Keep a glass of water or another favourite drink at hand and encourage your child to take sips in between bites. The liquid will encourage swallowing before taking another bite. A cold or carbonated drink can also provide additional oral sensory input. The sensory experience can be increased with a straw. As a matter of safety, encourage your child to clear their mouth with a swallow before drinking to avoid choking

  • Make it Visual Support

Many children, particularly those with autism, do best with visual cues. So try using a visual schedule or picture story to help the child become aware of the number of pieces they put in their mouth at one time. For example, take three pictures of a crisp and another of a glass of water. Attach them to a page or picture board in order and explain “You can eat up to three crisps. Then it’s important to take a sip of water before you have another cracker.” Put this visual aid on the table where your child can see it as a reminder at snack time.

  • Mirror Feedback

As another potentially effective cue, provide your child with a table-standing or handheld mirror and have them watch themself put food into their mouth and chew. The visual feedback of watching themself eat can help them gain self-awareness and self-control when verbal reminders fail. The use of a mirror will also allow them to see if they have a messy face and to self-monitor as to whether they need to clean their face.

  • Include “Alerting” Textures

Some foods are easier to sense in the mouth than others so try and include some sense-alerting textures in their meal or snack choices. For example, rather than a soft slice of bread, give your child a piece of warm and crunchy toast. Similarly, cheese can be paired with a hard cracker.

  • Increase Variety

Increase sensory input by offering a variety of textures in each of the child’s meals and snacks. Combinations might include chewy foods (e.g. dried fruit and Pepperami), crunchy foods (e.g. vegetable sticks, apple pieces, crackers) and soft foods (e.g. pasta, rice). By prompting your child’s mouth to “adapt” to different textures, this tactic may decrease their tendency to needlessly overstuff their mouth.

  • Dip It

Encourage “dipping” food into sauces to slow down the eating process. Chicken nuggets, carrots and bread sticks can be dipped in bowls of ketchup, barbeque sauce, etc. In addition to slowing things down dipping increases the variety of textures and flavours.

  • Use a Behavioural/Reward Chart

Try a reward system to reinforce learning and motivate your child to stop and swallow between bites. A reward system can involve earning points for each mealtime – or portion of mealtime – completed without overstuffing their mouth.

For each meal or snack completed without mouth stuffing, the child gets, for example, to place a stamp, sticker or check in the corresponding box for that day. When, for example, three reward markers are gained, allow them to select a motivating reward such as a favourite food, small toy, a special activity with you, etc.

  • Coordinate with Other Caregivers

Be sure to enlist other caregivers such as school TAs. Explain the goals and the reward system so they can be integrated into your child’s day such as snack or lunchtimes. This will provide your child with consistency that reinforces their new skills and helps them carry these skills over into other environments.

For Further Information and Guidance please contact:-

Liz Skilton, Therapy Lead or Karen Al Khina, Milestone Occupational Therapist

Play is one of the primary occupations of childhood and helps us learn so many essential sensory, motor and cognitive skills. Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Power of Play Hub offers lots of simple play ideas.

Sensory and messy play

Messy Play is a wonderful way to develop fine motor skills and explore sensory experiences, as well as promote calm and enhance well-being for many.

Making sensory play resources yourself can be even more fun!

They create additional learning opportunities to develop skills such as following instructions. They also provide enjoyment and promote participation in shared interaction experiences.

To support our students, parents and carers, our Occupational Therapist has created a number of Recipes, Vocabulary boards and discussion cards for accessible sensory-based activities.

Easy-to-set-up sensory ideas for the garden or home
Click here for a list of ideas

Make slime

  1. Add half a cup (100ml) of clear glue to a bowl
  2. Add half a teaspoon (2.5ml) of bicarbonate of soda
  3. Add drops of food colouring to your liking
  4. Add half a tablespoon (10ml) of contact lens seolution (must include sodium borate as an ingredient)
  5. Mix quickly and knead
  6. Add glitter and knead

Make fluffy slime

  1. Add half a cup (100ml) of white glue to a bowl
  2. Add half a teaspoon (2.5ml) of bicarbonate of soda
  3. Add drops of food colouring to your liking
  4. Add half a tablespoon (10ml) of contact lens seolution (must include sodium borate as an ingredient)
  5. Mix quickly and knead
  6. Add glitter and knead

Make gloop (Oobleck)

  1. Add 1 cup (200ml) of cornflour to a bowl
  2. Add half a cup (100ml) of water
  3. Add drops of food colouring to your liking
  4. Mix

Make play dough

  1. Add 1 cup (200ml) plain flour to a bowl
  2. Add quarter of a cup (50ml) salt
  3. Add 1 tablespoon (20ml) cream of tartar
  4. Mix
  5. Add half a cup (100ml) boiling water
  6. Add drops of food colouring (or use gel) to your liking
  7. Add 1 tablespoon (20ml) of vegetable oil
  8. Mix
  9. Optional as this is non-edible: Add 5-6 drops of essential oil for a nice scent
  10. Mix and knead
  11. Add a little extra water if needed

Sensory yoga is an excellent tool for self-regulation in the classroom or at home, to improve focus, help with calming, and to support children with ASD.

To support our students’ general well-being and self-regulation some classes at Milestone have been introduced to ‘mindfulness’ using sensory yoga. When children or young people are beyond their own capacity to contain and control themselves, it can be because they are too tired, too dehydrated, too overstimulated or too overwhelmed.

When the nervous system goes into overload we can see the resulting distress behaviours. It is not always possible to pre-empt or foresee triggers or to avoid out-of-control meltdowns. However, Sensory Yoga, is a simple physical activity, that can help students (and parents and carers!) de-stress, calm, feel balanced and ‘grounded’. A few basic yoga poses and simple breathing techniques, practiced regularly, (together with other strategies in the ‘tool kit’), can be effective in enabling our children to build resilience and self-regulation.

Sensory Yoga can be done at home with your child, not just at school, and so offers an activity that can support your mutual regulation. But by providing your child with the physical ‘tools’ it can help to slow, settle and re-set the mind-body state.

Taken from the book ‘Sensory Yoga for Kids’ by Britt Collins, we are providing you here with a short introductory sequence of sensory yoga poses to try at home. They are designed to promote calm and ease anxiety and can be particularly helpful for our students with autism.

Start with a few poses and keep the sequence consistent. As tolerance increases add in a few more poses, change the order or change how you get in or out of a pose safely.

Yoga pose diagrams
Yoga pose diagrams
Yoga pose diagrams
Yoga pose diagrams

Research shows a significant link between sleep behaviours and patterns and the way bodies experience sensory stimuli or sensations. Children with sensory processing difficulties are more likely to have challenges falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or being comfortable while sleeping. For useful explanations and tips, please click on the link below.

Click here to view the Spiral Foundation Toolkit for Parents and Caregivers


Talk about the things around you. When cooking, comment on what you’re doing, label the equipment. Take photos to talk about what you did later! On your daily walk comment on what you can see, look out for things with a different colour each day.

  • Use Core Vocabulary: These are the small words we use, which make up most of what we say e.g. go/stop/turn/more. We can use these words in different ways, so we don’t always have to have every single word e.g “go more”, “stop turn”.
  • Descriptive Labels: Describe what something looks like, instead of just labelling it. Label the colour, texture, size e.g for flower “top part pretty” and “has seed”. This helps develop descriptive language.
  • Questions: Use different vocabulary when asking questions: For example when baking a cake:
    • What do we need BEFORE we start? “open”
    • What goes in FIRST? – “soft yellow” ( cake mix)
    • What goes in NEXT? – “wet” (oil)
    • What shall we do AFTER? “ more mix”
  • Descriptive questions: use language to encourage the use of different responses e.g “I wonder if you can….”, “ what do you think?….”
  • Label the environment: Practice putting words together in different situations e.g “TV on/off”, “shoes on/off”. In a soft play activity help your child to use words related to place and actions e.g “in ball pit”, “throw ball”.
  • Label and categorise toys in boxes e.g. “soft/hard/big/small”. This will encourage your child to use descriptive language before labelling what they want e.g “I want soft.” You can then ask which specific soft toy they want e.g teddy or ball?
  • Model vocabulary: use your child’s communication book or device alongside them. This will help them to see where different words are, and develop their confidence.
  • Ask open questions, which need your child to use different responses to just “yes” or “no” e.g: “what does your bike look like?”
    • Respond: allow time for your child to respond : “red”
    • Recast: add descriptive language onto what they have said: “shiny red bike!”
  • Be creative! don’t worry if the book or device doesn’t have a specific word, use the vocabulary that is already there to describe it e.g “wet full” for a bottle of oil. There isn’t always one exact answer.
  • Use it all the time! use the book or device as your child’s voice. Even if you know what they want, encourage them to use it at all times.

Play Games

Games of any sort encourages social skills, talk about the rules and practice turn taking. Allow your child to use language to explain the rules to you.


Enjoy time together, talk about the pictures and what you can see. For older children talk about how it makes you feel and give it a star rating out of 5!


Involve your child in daily routines such as cooking, laundry, making beds, tidying up, unpacking shopping, choosing meals.

Offer choices around daily routines e.g. “shall we call Grandma or auntie first?”, or do you want to use crayons or felt tips?

Sensory Activities

Use everyday items, and sensory toys:

  • shine different coloured lights around slowly to help your child follow them
  • use different textures for your child to explore such as tinfoil, lentils, sand, foam, jelly, water
  • make loud and quiet sounds with a wooden spoon and saucepan


  • Drawing and painting are good opportunities for talking about colours.
  • Play shops using items around the home.
  • Take turns to be shopkeeper and customer.
  • Have a picnic. List and prepare everything you need.
  • Play with dolls and teddies. Wash face, hands, feet, feed them, get them ready for bed, take them on an adventure.
  • Build a junk tower.

Can you find?

Ask your child to find different objects around the house e.g. colours “find something blue”, size “find somethings small/big, clothing “something you can wear” / “something you wear on your head”. When you feel your child is ready, try and use these together e.g. “find something blue and small.”


Visual supports can be used to communicate with people on the autism spectrum as stereotypically, people with autism are visual learners. Visuals are adaptable, portable and can be used in most situations. They can make communication physical and consistent, rather than fleeting and inconsistent like spoken words can be. The ease of using visuals are seen every day to communicate information, examples include no entry signs, colour red for hot taps, on off signs on buttons/switches. Everywhere there are symbols. Key thing to remember is to support the visual with one key word, for example showing a toilet symbol and stating “toilet” at the same time. To make sure the young person understands that the symbol is ‘concrete’ (definitely going to happen) and therefore builds trust with this communication of information is to go through with the activity stated on the visual.

Weekly Routine Timetable
Daily routine symbols for cleaning teeth, brushing hair, showering, going to school, etc.


Everyone needs to be motivated to do anything. Motivation for our students is broken down into two types, Intrinsic and Extrinsic. There are more than two types of motivation but these are the two we will focus on when referring to learning or participating in activities.

Intrinsic reward/motivation- the reward comes from inside the person. This could be the satisfaction of achievement, overcoming a challenge or something that the person values.

Extrinsic reward/motivation- this is the key reward system within Milestone. This reward through objects or praise.


  • If you promise a reward for an activity, stick to it. If you do not supply what you have promised, the person will not believe that you will provide the reward when they have completed the demand. Example of this is going to work for a month and then not getting paid for it, you are doing something that you don’t want to do but you don’t get anything back would you do it? It is the same for our students

  • If you supply the reward even after the demand has not been fulfilled enough, the process of demand then reward will not be reinforced and they will refuse to carry out demands. Using the same example as above, if you went to work, did hardly any of the work and still got paid for the same job as if you worked as hard as possible, would you then work as hard as possible?


Routine is different from schedules and timetables. It can be beneficial for students when it is the routine that we want them to have. This can lead to less stress/anxiety and also more independence. Routines help to create stability and order. People with autism quickly learn routines and are naturally motivated to repeat them. If the steps in a routine are presented with a clear beginning and end, the total routine is often learned quickly. Every classroom has routines during the day such as morning, hanging coats up, putting their Communication aid in the right place, putting their packed lunch in the box, and starting morning work. This routine has been worked on through visuals and support for a period of time. This is when routine is beneficial. What we would recommend is that you find a routine that would help lower your stress and your child’s stress, this could be as simple as a breakfast routine-

Out of bed, toilet, kitchen, breakfast and then shower.

Everyone is different; this routine may need breaking down a lot further or can be broadened. Routines are a very individual thing, use it to your advantage but also to your child’s. There can be many different types of routine, we would suggest not to try too many all at once. There are some example routines below.

Symbols for Good Morning
What is the weather today?
Symbols for What day is it today?
Circle Time has finished! Time to check our timetables

Example routines and useful videos


Points to note about activity/work areas

Visual timetable (example at the top of the page). This allows students to understand what is happening during the day. This leads to less anxiety/stress as they will not need to predict/guess/plan what could be happening. It sets in concrete what is happening for the young person but also us. Some of us write lists or keep calendars/diaries to plan out jobs that need to be done, for our young people it will need to be in an easily understandable form such as pictures, symbols, objects of reference (plate means lunch, TV remote means Television etc) or hand/computer written form.

Labelled resources. This will help encourage independence by getting their own equipment (even cutlery) but also means that children might not feel the urge to search inside which can often disturb activities. We may even see this as a negative behaviour but it is just part of the young inquisitive mind. If we label boxes/drawers it may reduce this.

Defined teaching areas. This will help the young person understand that this is where I do work/activities etc. This will hopefully mean less distraction. It is the same with everyone, if you sit with your laptop in front of the TV you will be distracted, sit at a table, or a recognised area of work and you will be more productive.

Clear expectations need to be provided to all. In order to do this the aim is to give people the answers to these questions:

  1. What am I doing?

    Make it clear and understandable for the young person. With some students you can state the job that needs to be done, the tools/equipment needed and then the expectation of what it will look like all of which will be answering some of the other key questions. For other students it may be one simple instruction with a visual, Cleaning, Puzzle, etc.

  2. How long do I do it for?

    End of activity signalled, Start and Finish trays or similar. This helps students clearly understand what they have to do to move onto the next activity. For example if you want someone to complete a puzzle you would give them one puzzle in a box, when they complete it, they put it back in the box. Here is when they are directed to the timetable to see what is happening next. Cooking could be that all the ingredients are in a specific location on the side and then when they are all mixed and put in the cooker, that signals the end of the activity and the start of the next.

  3. Where am I doing it?

    This is part of the defined teaching areas. If you are doing a cooking activity we would recommend doing it in the kitchen, even if it may be easier at the dining table. This will help object/activity/location reference. At Milestone we will use visuals (photos/symbols) to communicate where the activity will be taking place.

  4. What comes next?

    This can be demonstrated as part of the timetable depicted visually, with objects or verbally if appropriate. See notes below on Now and Next, First and Then.

Specific word supported by visuals to use

Now and Next, this will break down the timetable/schedule into more manageable and understandable chunks. Such as, Now cooking Then cleaning. This works well for students who enjoy a routine but this will need to be done throughout the day.

First and Then, is a reward based approach where you outline the demand and then immediately reward with a preferred motivator. This works extremely well at motivating people to do things. But it needs to be clear to the person what it is being required as stated in the clear expectations area. First cooking Then TV Make the reward time managed as well, if it is TV for instance let the person watch one show. If it is a computer game, toys or something similar that does not have a clear end let them play for example 15 minutes but demonstrate with a timer, visual sand timers can be found on the internet.

First Book and then Bubbles, Examples of Reward Based Approach

Identifying and unpicking different emotions

Children’s social and emotional skills begin to develop from an early age; but this is something that many of our children need help with to enable them to understand how they feel, why they feel this way and what they can do to change this, particularly if they are feeling emotions such as sad, angry or worried.

Building a good understanding of emotions when you’re young helps you relate to others and manage your own mental health later on. Talking openly with children about how they feel and why, can help them to start recognising and understanding different emotions.

Start talking

Try asking your child to describe how they are feeling, and follow up with open questions about what’s happened to make them feel this way. For example; ‘Tell me about how you are feeling?’ or ‘What has happened to make you feel like this?’ Talking will help your child process their feelings and make sense of them, as well as calming them down.

Put a label on it

Once your child has described how they are feeling help them put a label on it. Are they feeling angry? worried? scared? happy? Doing this will help increase their vocabulary and make it easier to recognise the emotion the next time they experience it.

It’s okay to feel this way

It’s important that your child knows that it’s okay to feel different emotions, even if it’s not a nice feeling. Experiencing emotions can help us learn about ourselves and other people. Reinforce to your child that we all experience challenging feelings.

Feelings faces

Encouraging your child to recognise different facial expressions helps them to make connections between what they’re feeling and what that might look like. A downturned mouth can be sad, an upturned one can be happy! What about excited – what does our mouth do then? What do our eyebrows do?

Share your own experiences

There are lots of complex emotions that might seem hard to describe to your child. Help them understand by giving examples of a time you felt this way. You could describe what happened to make you feel this way and share what you did to make yourself feel better. The ‘Skittles Game’ is a great activity to complete with your child, which will help to open conversations and develop an increased understanding and awareness of different emotions, alongside the ideas above.

A photo of the rules of 'The Skittles Game' printed out on a sheet of paper.

Wellbeing and Mental Health

Social Stories are a great learning tool for specific behaviours that require very careful individualisation for our students. Our students have difficulties in many areas as we are all aware, especially social interactions/understanding/prediction and neural typical academic learning.

Movement breaks and exercise

Movement breaks are brief intervals that enable all students to move their bodies and help teachers and tutors to engage learners in physical ways. Activities include


Some individuals find some activities over stimulating and then increase hyperactiveness. For example running fast can cause students to become restless and unable to return to classroom work. When this occurs there is a plan put in place such as a relaxing time blowing bubbles, massage and squeezing objects like cuddly toys. This gives the muscles movement or pressure while the heart rate can decrease allowing opportunity to calm.

Stress bucket

The stress bucket is an analogy we use to collate ideas on what does or might cause anxiety/stress to people. When we have a good idea of what causes the stress we can come up with a plan to avoid or support students to reduce stress and the likelihood of negative behaviour. It is a good reminder of key aspects to avoid where possible, anticipating and preventing their stress bucket becoming full and overflowing (crisis). We become the taps to relieve pressure.

With your young person/ on behalf of your young person- list/ draw stresses that are currently happening and think of ways as parents/carers we can alleviate some of this pressure and action it into our young persons day (plan). The stress bucket depicted shows what could increase the stress of someone with autism, but this is a good strategy to use with anyone

Stress Bucket Diagram with examples of issues that might cause stress