Autistic child climbing on furniture

Autistic child climbing on furniture

All children climb at some stage and to be honest children must learn to climb.  Climbing works on developing all kinds of muscles.  It strengthens and helps to develop the child’s hands and forearms, biceps, shoulders, upper back muscles, lats, neck, lower back, abs, glutes, thighs, and calves.

Many parents of autistic children must deal with a child that has a severe climbing problem and whilst climbing is an important part of the development of gross motor muscles it can be very problematic in the autistic household.

Why do children climb?

Children climb because they can.  Some children climb because they like the feeling in their bones and muscles.  Other children climb because climbing is a thrill – these same children want to flex their muscles and satisfy their curiosity about what’s up on the top of the shelf.

For many autistic children climbing means that their bodies get proprioceptive and vestibular input.  Both jumping and climbing activities can provide a child with this type of sensory input and the autistic child craves it.  They crave that heavy work, deep muscle, head tilting movement.

How can I help my autistic child that climbs?

The first step to helping your child is to establish why they are climbing.  If the child is climbing because they like it, and it has become a respective behavior that they just do at random then dealing with it will need to be approached from a behavior intervention perspective or with the implementation of distraction techniques.

If the child is however climbing due to the need for sensory input, then an Occupation Therapist can help you implement a program that can help provide the child with the sensory input they need.  This will then mean that the child will get input from other areas, and they will then lose the need to climb or jump on furniture.

Here are 10 activities for kids who climb or jump that can be implemented in the home or in the classroom.

  1. Rolling over an exercise ball can help provide input.
  2. Tumbling lessons or gymnastics is another way to get input.
  3. Trampoline jumping – be it a big one or a small mini-trampoline that can be put inside the house.
  4. Monkey bar activities or if you don’t have a garden consider getting a doorway pull-up bar (most good sports shops will have one)
  5. Jungle gym activities that involve safe climbing and swinging activities
  6. You can incorporate weight-bearing activities like push-ups
  7. Resistance activities like pushing or pulling can also provide input
  8. Carrying books, groceries, etc – so heavy lifting can give input
  9. Chewing gum or blowing bubbles
  10. Deep pressure or bear hugs


The proprioceptive system is in our muscles, and it proved us with a sense of body awareness.  When parents and teachers give this type of input to autistic children their need to climb furniture or windows will be greatly reduced.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.