How Do Sensory Toys Help with Autism?
Updated: Mar 15, 2020
There are many children across the globe who live with autism and often times parents, teachers and guardians are desperate to help them deal with this properly, improve their learning ability, and help them overcome their symptoms. Toys can help them do that!
When buying toys for children with autism, parents may wonder what special considerations to make. Are there special sensory toys for autism? Toys with certain textures or sounds that might fair better with autistic kids? Turns out choosing the right toy for a child with autism is a lot like picking out a toy for any other kid. Let their interests guide you just as you would with neurotypical children, says Dr. Kristie Patten Koenig, an occupational therapist and associate professor at New York University. There’s no such thing as the perfect toy for autistic kids, so lean into what actually interests them.
“With autism, kids have preferred interests. They may be focused on one thing. Some paradigms say to expand their play repertoire. I tend to look at that differently. If they are interested in trains, it’s a great avenue for learning and a way for parents to connect with their kids,” says Koenig. “Just remember that there’s no magic toy that helps autism.”
Dr. Mandi Silverman, the senior director of the Autism Center at the Child Mind Institute, suggests parents follow their kids’ lead. “Buy toys your kids like. You follow their interests. That said, I would tell parents to get toys that encourage your kid to engage with you or other kids. That’s the goal.” Certain toys are better than others at encouraging collaborative play, when children interact with each other, as opposed to parallel play, in which children play near each other but independently.
Parents might also look for toys that encourage physical activity, like swings or balls, and playing with other kids, like dollhouses and play kitchens. Books with sounds or textures are great for engaging kids’ senses. Most of all, choose toys that don’t have a hyper-specific use but rather allow for creativity and open-ended play, so kids can use them however they want in developmentally-appropriate ways.
Check out the following websites for great sensory toy ideas:
You can also check with your assigned RBT or BCBA team member to help with toy and appropriate play suggestions to help your child.
By Donna Freydkin