How Products May Help You Understand Kids Under the Spectrum

Kids with autism are just that: kids. And they want to play! So what are the best toys for autistic kids to encourage that exploration through play?

Many parents of children newly diagnosed with autism aren't aware of the many tools that can help them and their child manage the stress in everyday activities that the disorder can create.

Autism is commonly accompanied by sensory issues. The American Psychiatric Association even added sensory sensitivities to the list of symptoms that help diagnose autism in 2013. 

Sensory toys are designed to stimulate a child’s five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. They might include elements such as bright, contrasting colors, sounds, or different textures. These toys are meant to help children develop their senses in a safe and natural environment using play.

Whether you’re a parent, family member, caregiver, teacher, or you are on the spectrum yourself, we hope the following list will help guide you in the right direction when searching for autism friendly products.

What Are Sensory Issues?

There are two types of sensory issues that might affect a child with autism: hyper-sensitivities and hypo-sensitivities. Both types of sensitivities affect how the child processes and reacts to different types of stimuli. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Sights
  • Sounds
  • Smells
  • Tastes
  • Touch
  • Balance
  • Body Awareness

Hyper-Sensitive Children

Children who are hypersensitive are overly responsive to stimulants. This is often called “sensory overload.” Both regular and extreme stimuli, like bright lights or strong smells, can affect hyper-sensitive children, leaving them feeling overwhelmed. There are a number of strategies that can be used to help children with sensory hypersensitivity. Autism toys can help with sensory hypersensitivity, but they aren’t the end-all. In order to ensure appropriate support is in place, in addition to autism toys, parents should consult with an occupational therapist or professional to determine the best way to support their child with hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli.

Hypo-Sensitive Children

As opposed to hyper-sensitivity, some children with autism are actually under-responsive to senses and stimulants. One example of this is a low sensitivity to pain. A child who has hypo-sensitivity also may be under-responsive to body signals that affect balance control and physical coordination. Some accommodations that can be made for children who are hypo-sensitive include weighted animals, strong tasting or textured foods, and activities that practice physical skills such as dancing, jumping, running, and catching.

How do sensory toys help autism?

Sensory toys help children with autism relax, focus, and calm down to a scenario or event. Toys help kids grasp objects with decreased dear and discomfort, ultimately helping them play naturally. Furthermore, sensory toys help develop social learning skills like negotiating, planning, and sharing.

How Are Sensory Toys Used For Autism?

The use of sensory toys to help children with autism is becoming more and more common. There are many different types of sensory toys available, appealing to one or more of the different senses. They work to engage a child’s senses in an enjoyable way.

Toys for sensory development can help children focus better, calm down, and relax, however, sensory toys do not replace formal and evidence-based treatment for autism spectrum disorders. In the end, sensory toys are meant to help a child learn more about their senses in a fun way. Through the use of play, a child under the spectrum may better understand their senses and how to manage them.

Best Sensory Toys

 If you are trying to determine what the best types of sensory toys are, here are a few options you might want to consider.

  1. Pop Tubes Sensory Toys: These are wonderful for children to fidget with, they provide great sensory input in the form of both sensation and soft sound.

  2. Sensory Mats: A great sensory toy are a series of sensory mats. These are small mats with different textures. Children can then use their hands or feet to feel and play with the different types of textures.

  3. Chew Toys: Chewing can be a very effective way for kids with autism to calm and self-regulate themselves. To keep your child’s fingernails, sleeves and fingers toothmark-free, turn to chewelry (chew + jewelry = chewelry), a great on-the-go way to get oral sensory input.
  1. Therapy Hammock Swing: These soft, stretchy hanging swings provide therapeutic effects for children with autism. Just be sure to hang them securely and always supervise use!
  2. Sand, Slime, or Putty: Another one of the best sensory toys that might be beneficial for your child is sand, slime, or putty. These allow your child to play while also developing fine motor skills. Children can play with the substance alone or they can incorporate other objects as well. Also, the substances are often brightly colored, appealing to their visual senses.

Your playroom can be stocked with the very best, but to make your collection of special needs toys truly impactful, get down on the ground and play with your child. Playing with toys with others is an important way that children with ASD can learn, and don’t forget: Singing songs and playing with your child without toys is fun and important too!

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