As it should be, children with autism need special toys to help them play and learn like their peers. The difference between the toys for children with autism and the toys for average children is that the special toys for ASD kids work with their strengths while challenging them to strengthen their weaknesses. This close to Christmas, I thought it might be nice to review some very effective toys for children with autism.
Children with autism enjoy motion, without a doubt. They either love to watch things in motion, trying to understand or reproduce it, or they love to be the ones in motion. While this is fun for parents as well as their children, it doesn’t stop with a half hour on a swing. Their fixation on items can literally exhaust parents and thus they might need redirection. However, in the mean time, motion toys are fun for all.
In this category are swings. Kids with ASD love swings, outdoor or indoor. Indoor swings can be purchased from special needs equipment catalogs and online. The two things parents have to remember most about installing an indoor swing for their child is that it has to be very secure to the ceiling and give their child a very wide berth for movement. They will swing as wide and as high as they can get in pursuit of that swinging sensation, and you don’t want your child to crash into your TV or a wall.
A Human Roly-Poly ball is another fun toy they like. It resembles a giant soccer ball, and requires a lot of air to inflate. Children with autism can roll in it, jump on it, or just rest kangaroo’ed inside. Clear octagon windows lets parents peer in to see how and what their child is doing in the ball.
Cause And Effect toys
Kids with autism have a unique way of viewing things and seem fascinated by cause and effect. This is true whether they are high functioning or lower functioning. They love to act on something and find out the result.
Toys that reward them with sound, lights, music or some other very interesting effect are perfect for children who like to see things happen when they try to make things work. Shake toys, bop toys, drop and bounce toys, and correct placement of objects and parts toys fall into this category. These toys get children with ASD to interact with something and even prompt them to interact with you or another child.
Children with ASD are easily overstimulated and need to be soothed regularly. Quieting and calming toys make excellent gifts because the children gravitate towards them almost immediately. There are several different types of calming and soothing toys, and you just have to find the one or two that works for your child.
If he/ she isn’t tactile defensive, they might really enjoy the “womb” toys. These toys give a sense of enclosed pressure that is comforting and reassuring to your child with ASD. Closeness and tightness feels secure to them, and in turn, is very relaxing. Pea pods, weighted bed blankets, and crawl tunnels with just enough wiggle through room are a few of the more popular ones.
Massage toys are another form of soothing. Any sort of massager, in a chair, battery- operated, meant for the feet, handheld—it doesn’t seem to matter as long as it’s a massage. Quite frankly, who doesn’t like massages and find them relaxing? For autistic kids, a deeper pressure might be needed for them to feel the full effect, but otherwise they absolutely love this.
Chewies are toys that kids can wear as accessories but allow them to chew for comfort. If your child chews holes in his/ her clothes, chews pencils, or is constantly trying to put something in their mouth when frustrated, chewies are great. It saves the clothes, it saves pencils and for the biting child, it gives them a redirective toy to sink their teeth into rather than somebody else. Some even vibrate, so extra oral stimulation is provided.
Large and Small Muscle Development toys
For the ASD child that has difficulty using crayons or can’t quite pedal a bike or find his/ her balance, adaptive toys that graduate up are another gift idea.
Famous crayon makers for a century, Crayola markets their products to younger and younger children, but they also recognize that their products work well as adaptive and therapeutic devices. Oversized crayons and chalk as well as crayons and chalk and some paints placed in special orbital holders for fingers that can’t quite grasp the regular materials work well for ASD kids.
Theraputty, a wonderfully stretchy plastic putty that works the small muscle groups in the fingers, hands, and forearms, is available from special needs retailers.
Sorting toys that require pinching and picking up items work well for small muscle development too.
Pedal trainers, bands that latch the feet to the pedals of any bike, trike or pedal toy, help kids keep their feet on the pedals while learning to pedal.
Trampolines are, were, and will always be an excellent large muscle as well as a movement toy that kids on the spectrum love. Hey, adults love them too, so why not? You can even buy colorful smaller ones with handle bars for safety that you can put in their rooms or in the family room.
Balance or yoga balls and special front wheels for bikes help kids learn balance and coordination. Many children on the spectrum seem to have issues with inner vestibular regulation, which causes them to be clumsy or trip a lot. They can learn to ride a bike almost on their own with the special bike wheels and the balance balls are always fun to do some exercises on.
This list is just the basics, but some of the best toys for autism and for Christmas are on here. Here’s to hoping your special Christmas is the best one yet this season!