Buying toys for children can be difficult. You want to get something that will make the child smile. The reality is no matter how great the gift, a child with autism may never give you a smile. Autistic children have problems with verbal and nonverbal communication (like smiling), social interactions and repetitive behaviors but that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate your gift.
Whether for a holiday, birthday or just because here are some gifts children on the autism spectrum may be more inclined to enjoy.
These toys provide sensory input that many children with autism ‘seek’ and may not be receiving from their environment. Whether children touch or visually see, sensory toys capture children’s attention. These toys have also been proven to help improve concentration and focus in children with ADHD.
There are a few types of sensory toys but the more popular would be tactile ones they touch like fidget items. Fidget-friendly items allow children to keep their hands busy and give them sensory input while not being a big distraction in places likes schools, restaurants or while traveling. Although most have heard of fidget spinners, I have found more success with tangles, fidget cubes and toys that stretch and squish like stress balls. These are also great rewards for behavioral therapy programs.
Another great sensory gift is moon sand. This sand sticks to itself so it doesn’t make a mess on hands, clothes and floors. It feels great to squish and comes in a variety of colors. You can even find popular characters from Television like Paw Patrol.
For more visually oriented children any style of lamp that projects onto a wall, liquid motion toys or laval lamps are great. Watching the moving parts can entice children and also helps soothe them.
Preventing Sensory Overload
For children with extreme sensitivity to sounds or Sensory Processing Disorder, noise-canceling headphones are a must. They are great for children with auditory processing issues or anxiety, especially in crowds. Amusement parks or noise family get-togethers are another great time to use them.
Gifts that Help Social Skills
A common trait of autism is delayed social skills. Many children with autism find social skills complex, but can learn social skills through games like the Socially Speaking Game, How do You Feel or Teen Talk. Sometimes a simple turn taking board game can help with language development, like Ker Plunk, Don’t Break the Ice or Jenga. These games have simple rules and do not require a lot of communication.
For kids who like iPads
Modern technology like iPads can help children with autism learn and communicate. The sensory experience of touching the screen can hold children’s attention. Autism Speaks has a great list of apps that suit a wide variety of ages, categories and needs.
A great app that helps children with anxiety is a visual schedule iPad app called MyRoutine. This app allows children to tap on a picture of a task throughout the day and receive a smiling face or a pre-recorded message of encouragement.
The Best Gift
As good as all these suggestions are the very best thing you can give any child is YOU. Spending quality time doesn’t cost much and only requires a fraction of your time and patience. Take time to bake, do crafts or pick an activity your child enjoys.
About our guest writer, Paige McEachren:
Our guest blogger, Paige, talks about how food affects children’s moods.
Paige spent over 20 years working in corporate communications for world-leading technology, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. In 2015, she decided to leave the professional workplace to stay home and help her young kids navigate life with ADHD, Anxiety and dyslexia. She shares her tales of a disordered life on her blog www.pieceofpie.ca. You can also follow her on Twitter or Instagram.