Sensory Experiences in Summer
Summer, a time of hiking, biking, camping, and swimming, can be a joyful time. For children sensitive to sensory integration, however, it can be an overwhelming season full of stimulation. Children, in general, are highly sensitive. Some seek out stimulation and some limit it. Luckily, here in western MA there are inclusive resources and activities for both sensory-seeking and sensory-limiting children and their families.
Children who love sensory input will most likely have a great time at one of the many Western Massachusetts museums, including the Springfield Museums, Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield and the Holyoke Children’s Museum.
The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is one example of a museum which provides lots of hands-on learning opportunities for people of all ages, covering lots of subject matters and interests during the summer including art and STEM.
The Holyoke Children’s Museum also features tons of hands-on activities. The Imagination Playground inside the museum encourages children to engage in creative free play, rearranging the room’s components. The water table, slide, and climbing structures get kids moving and interacting with their environment in tactile ways.
See our column, Museum Adventures: Highlight from Western MA Museum Educators for an inside look at several museums in the Pioneer Valley. While our local museums are non-profits and deserve our support, many local libraries make regional museums accessible to their patrons by lending passes at free or discounted prices. For a comprehensive list of libraries which lend passes, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page.
Some kids love, and benefit from, vestibular input. This term refers to our detection of motion, which is connected to the inner ear. All movement affects vestibular receptors, but some activities such as spinning, swinging, and hanging upside down, are particularly intense. Playgrounds in general are great resources for this type of sensory experience. The Holyoke Merry Go Round, located near the museum, is a great place for sensory-seeking children who enjoy the feeling of involuntary motion.
Splash parks are another community resource where kids can watch and anticipate the spray and spouting of water on the sidelines or choose to engage at a distance that feels comfortable to them. Two water spray and splash parks include Nonotuck Park in Easthampton and Look Memorial Park in Florence.
The above mentioned indoor activities are welcoming to many families, however, some might find these activities overwhelming. For children and adults who get overwhelmed by lots of touch, sound, and visual input, an outdoor self-directed nature hike might be the best way to learn about nature without the pressure of large groups of people. Self-guided hikes allow children and their parents to move at their own pace, exploring the aspects of nature which they are most comfortable with. Check out this list of Western Mass hiking trails to plan your own self-paced sensory experience.
For children on the autism spectrum, as well as their friends and loved ones, there are several other learning resources and comfortable spaces in the Western MA. Whole Children in Hadley and the Spectrum Playhouse in Lee are two educational spaces which provide learning opportunities for children with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder.
For those who would like to learn more about ASD, check out this Hilltown Family Variety Show Autism Awareness Episode with Guest DJ, Marc Bazerman from Baze and His Silly Friends. Celebrating children of all abilities in an hour long, commercial-free, radio show/podcast, Marc shares songs that inspire us to love people for who they are
Related posts that support inclusion:
- Recommended Fiction Titles with Autistic Characters
- Resources for Learning About the Experiences of People With Disabilities
[Photo credit: (cc) Morgan Schmorgan]