It's very hard for most people to understand how something such as swinging is very important for kids on the autism spectrum. To put it as simple as I can put it....it helps organize their brain and regulate their body! I know that is hard to understand how swinging can do that.
Here are a few paragraphs from an article on sensory integration for kids with autism....
Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound and the pull of gravity. The process of the brain organizing and interpreting this information is called sensory integration. Sensory integration provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behavior.
For most children, sensory integration develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor planning ability is a natural outcome of the process, as is the ability to adapt to incoming sensations. But for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. When the process is disordered, a number of problems in learning, development, or behavior may become evident.
It's logical, then, that therapists facilitate brain development by guiding the child to pleasurable activities providing vestibular, tactile and proprioceptive stimulation. It is not coincidental that young children spontaneously run, jump, spin, climb, and love all kinds of rough and tumble play. Some children, especially those who are developmentally delayed, do not get enough of these kinds of stimulation. For them, sensory integrative therapy can help to provide what has been lacking and stimulate more normal development. The fact that the brain can develop throughout life (neural plasticity) is what makes development possible.
A few more paragraphs from another website.
Swinging, jumping, spinning and rocking are important to children not only for fun and exercise but also to help their bodies organize and to regulate their sensory systems. Vestibular input is one of the core elements of sensory integration therapy. Our bodies' vestibular system is the sensory system that provides the primary input about movement, balance, spatial awareness and positioning. It helps us prepare our posture, maintain our balance, properly use our vision, calm ourselves and regulate our behavior.
The amount of vestibular input varies depending on the child. Some children crave movement, while others may be motion sensitive. It is important that the sensory needs of the child being monitored to determined what is right for them. Some children may start to "stim" after a point and can become more aggressive or hyperactive offsetting any calming effect the swing may have had on the child. Controlled vestibular input under the direction of an occupational or physical therapist is recommended for children with sensory processing issues.
Movement is essential for typical development to occur in all children. Swinging can have a powerful impact the brain's ability to process and use sensory information. Whether the child is linear swinging on a strap swing, cuddled up in a net swing for proprioceptive input or spinning in a rotating movement, all of these movements can act as a powerful activator on the body's systems. Swings and a variety of other sensory input are used in this type of therapy. Therapists, parents and teachers can use swings effectively to reinforce any therapy objectives for children and provide sensory diets for special needs children. In addition, swings can act as a strong motivator. Since all kids like to swing (special needs or not), swinging can be used as a reward for positive behavior.
With all of that said, the boys have a new swing in their sensory room! We now have two swings. The good thing here is that they can both swing at the same time! The swings also provide a nice small area where they feel comfortable and protected in.