As we have now come to know, children on the autism spectrum often struggle with sensory challenges. In 2013 the American Psychiatric Association added sensory sensitivities to the list of symptoms used to help diagnose autism. There are a few kinds of sensory issues that can affect a child on the spectrum.
Children on the spectrum can process various kinds of stimuli in a different way than others. According to Autism Speaks, they can present an array of sensitivities that include hyper-sensitivities and hypo-sensitivities to stimuli. Here are just a few:
Parents often find that when their child is not getting their sensory needs met it can be difficult for them to self soothe leading to challenges following directions, concentrating, socializing, sleeping, and eating.
These tools do not replace evidence-based treatments for autism-like applied behavioral analysis (ABA), speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and pharmacological therapy but they do help children learn to manage their sensitivities. There are many different kinds of sensory toys. Here are some of the best sensory toys for autism this Christmas and beyond:
A terrific way to engage your child's sense of touch is with these groups of mats that have various textures for the child to feel. They can be soothing and stimulating for your autistic child. A good exercise for kids is to have them close their eyes while they touch each surface and describe how it feels.
Stability Balls with Soft Covers:
Big stability balls like Fuzzbudds are amazing at helping develop a child's balance and core strength. Fuzzbudds are big bouncy balls with a fuzzy cover. Some children with autism have low muscle tone or hypotonia. This is when muscles are not as firm or tight as expected developmentally. This may result in delayed motor skills, challenges with coordination, and general weakness in muscles. Via active sitting, they constantly engage the core and are often preferred over a desk chair. Fuzzbudds stability toys can be beneficial as well in increasing attention behaviors for children with ASD.
Putty and various kinds of play sand are often used by occupational therapists to help develop a child's fine motor skills. Stretch, mold, and mush non-toxic, non-sticky putty for lots of exploratory fun. Hide an object in the putty and let the child find it or just shape and mold into an animal etc. There are soft resistance, medium resistance, and firm resistance choices for whichever your child prefers.
Often used for infants when teething, these toys are also great for kids with autism as a way to provide sensory stimulation for the teeth and jaw.
Last but not least, fidget spinners and other fidget toys allow kids of all ages to stay stimulated and focused by keeping their hands occupied. These toys are also great for kids with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD.) The constant action of fidget spinners keeps kids' brains stimulated so they can focus on their tasks.