Trains are inanimate objects that don’t usually talk. Thomas and friends or Chuggington and Pals do talk. They don’t have human faces but the voices resonate with children with autism because they can listen and watch without engaging in a conversation face to face with another human being. Children with autism also like trains and planes because they produce a repetitive series of sounds which the children can mimic through echolalia, a common diagnostic criteria in autism.
Because many of the companies that reproduce the toys from these two animated series work to make them fit little hands perfectly, again they are one of the perfect toys for children with autism. The children can easily grasp and carry two of their favorites wherever they go. They can pretend that their make-believe talking engines are talking to them and moving around tracks even when there isn’t any. Group play isn’t required for these toys either, and since most autistic children are already in their own little worlds, what better toys than those they can bring into their inner circle in their own minds and playtime?
The play tables hold a fascination because of the repetitive track patterns and bold colors. The tracks encourage children with autism to follow a repeating pattern with their hands and their eyes, something they are naturally compelled to do already. Most of them aren’t interested in the houses and buildings unless they make noise, but the wooden tracks are something they understand. They love things that fit together and many children with autism are naturally curious problem and puzzle solvers.
For the kids that really enjoy the sounds produced by some of the trains and the buildings, they can be fully engaged for some time. However, some parents may want to end playtime with the trains sooner than the child is ready because he or she may want to persevere on one particular noise and not stop. To them it’s the ultimate sound stimulator and a noise which they really enjoy. To parents it’s a challenge to stop it before they hear the sound in their sleep!
Trains also represent motion, and motion for many children with autism is a form of self stimulation. It’s calming as well as energetic. Recognizing the continuous motion from the animated shows while playing with the toys makes it all the more compelling for them.
Please check, “20 Best Social Games for Children With Autism, Aspergers, ADHD“