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Autism can be defined as a developmental disability that usually interferes on how a person communicates with others, how they feel, how they express themselves and how they behave socially, among others. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is sometimes associated with a need to have a constant routine in life, where rigidity is the norm and there is a longing for performing repetitive actions.
Lately, there have been a lot of studies and research conducted in regards to the existent correlation between the use of specific toys and the sensory development that an autistic person could present, as the right kind of play could potentially alleviate some of the ASD’s symptoms that are often displayed in most children.
Playing is everything
So, if a person close to you has been diagnosed with Autism and you would like to give them a present, then keep these things in mind:
● With the right stimuli, an autistic child could develop their listening, observing, communicating and sharing skills.
● It is important to take into consideration the child’s preferences, interests, ability levels and developmental stages when purchasing a new toy for autistic children.
● Physical activities are as important as playing with a specific toy, therefore, make sure you spend some time being active as well.
● If you would like to help an autistic child with their school curriculum then you must find the correct educational toys that will guide them through the learning of necessary topics and information.
What should you keep in mind before buying a toy for an autistic child?
The first thing you must know is that you need to be aware of the personal development ability rather than the age of the child, as this will give you a clue on what toy you could get that will adjust to the child’s needs. Secondly, you should search for toys that serve a purpose, so they are not only fun but they are also educational. Lastly, less is definitely more, and this applies perfectly if you are looking for the best toys for autistic children.
What are the best toys for autistic children?
Have you ever noticed how children are always interested in wheels? It seems like every time they see a bicycle, a car, a train, or even a bus, they will always try to reach their wheels as it is something it catches their attention immediately. It is the same with children in the autistic spectrum.
Buying a train for your autistic child could mean that they will have lots of fun. Some trains can even be extended thus they become bigger (and this is definitely a plus as your child will be able to play with it for a really long time).
Puzzles are fun for all family members, especially if someone who has ASD wants to be involved. These toys require a great deal of attention, and most children with ASD genuinely like to solve puzzles as it allows them to put their methodic mind at rest.
In fact, they are usually really good at solving them! As a matter of fact, there are some specific puzzles that offer a combination of sounds and images, so, children have to associate what they see with what they hear thus this simple and old toy becomes an incredible sensory toy for your autistic child.
Moreover, mastering a puzzle can be something to be proud of as at the end of the game when they have completed it they will recognize everything they have achieved by placing puzzle pieces together. Always keep in mind your child’s interests and their developmental level, as you will need to find a puzzle that is on his or her current skills’ level.
If your autistic child suffers from stress on a regular basis, you should consider buying a squeeze toy that will allow them to manage their own feelings. They are a stress relief solution for those intense moments when nothing seems to work as they will be able to redirect their attention onto their hands as they are squeezing the toy they are holding.
These types of toys are good for ASD children and non-ASD children alike, as they provide a sensory experience that will allow them to interact with visual, tactile and auditory aspects of daily life. They are especially good for those children who love to touch things, hear things or see things, as they all specialize in something specific.
However, keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm your child with all these different sensory toys at all times, therefore we strongly encourage you to use one by one or see which toy he or she prefers, as over-stimulation is not recommended with ASD children for the reason that it could lead to a lot of stress.
Calming toys are those that make your child feel safer and calmer, especially when they are by themselves or when people who are close to them are not around. Whenever an ASD child has an episode where he or she cannot truly communicate, then they should be encouraged to play with this toy, especially as a way to redirect emotions and stressful feelings.
In this context, you cannot ask an autistic child to ‘behave’ or not to have any episodes of stressful behaviour, however, you could try to alleviate these feelings by allowing them to have a soothing toy that will eventually make their life – and your life – a little bit easier to handle.
These are inflatable balls where children can sit on and start moving or jumping around. These balls are great to have, especially when your ASD child has a lot of physical energy, as it actually functions as a physical therapy ball.
Another positive thing about this toy is that it lets them work out and strengthen their core muscles, so it’s definitely a functional toy. Space hoppers are usually made of eco-friendly materials that are also free from toxic substances, and, most importantly, it’s a toy that can be shared by many children – and adults!
Lego Blocks (or any type of blocks)
These are unmistakably one of the most well-known toys that have ever existed! Lego blocks are definitely very popular among autistic child as it encourages the development of fine and gross motor skills through the picking up, dropping and stacking of blocks; it encourages self-efficacy and cognitive skills as children will often decide where to put a block and will eventually learn that if the block is not put on properly it will fall; and above all, it will help them develop their imagination ability, something that is often very difficult to do for an autistic kid.
This is another amazing choice for the most energetic ASD children. A trampoline will give them the opportunity to work on their gross motor skills as they will have to find their own balance, and, at the same time, they will feel free to move around as no amount of jumping is ever forbidden when they are inside the trampoline!
Social Skills’ Toys are great for Autistic children
Impaired or delayed social skills is something that most children with ASD present. However, you must keep in mind that all autistic children can possibly learn social skills through the use of toys and games as these will provide a framework or reference on how to respond or interact with others in real life.
There are plenty of games that encourage the development of social skills, some of them will help your child to learn to recognize his or her emotions, while at the same time, it will give them the opportunity to feel empathy towards others.
Moreover, one thing to remember, if you are not used to spending lots of time playing with your child, or if your child is used to being by himself or herself, then it may take some time to readjust yourselves and to cooperate with each other and start playing together. After all, it is likely that they have already established their own play routine and you are now coming to join them…this is why you should be very patient and start slowly, and always remember that having fun is important!
In other words, to play means to learn. In fact, to play also means to teach. Whether you have a child with ASD or not, these toys will surely help them develop their sensory-motor-social-language-skills in a more versatile and fun way.
They can also be used to teach autistic children about their emotions, or about other daily life tasks such as getting dressed or brushing their teeth.
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