Helping Autistic Children Find Ways They Can Stimulate
What Types of Toys is Best?
Toys can serve as amazing tools to help autistic children calm down, self-regulate, and be successful in their environment. Children with autism can particularly benefit from sensory toys (toys designed to engage a child’s different senses: touch, hearing, sight, smell, and taste), helping them regulate their sensory needs and capturing their attention and focus.
Some sensory toys are stimulating and will help children explore and practice motor skills, while other sensory toys will help children calm down and self-regulate. Sensory bins, a bin full of toys intended to give children various sensory stimuli, are popular choices for children with autism.
Children with autism also often struggle with gross and fine motor skills, which is why toys that build these skills are great choices. Below are some of the most popular toys for children with autism.
1. Fat Brain Teeter Popper
Fat Brain creates many colorful sensory toys for kids of all ages, and their Teeter Popper is perfect for children with autism who need movement to self-regulate. The Teeter Popper is a floor toy that allows children to sit, rock, stand and balance on it, and more.
Parents like it, as it helps their kids self-regulate and soothe through sensory input and movement and helps them work on gross motor skills and core strength.
The bottom of the toy has suction cups, which provide additional sensory input through the “pop, pop” sound made while the child maneuvers the toy. While the toy is marketed as appealing most to children ages two-four, the toy could be appropriate for older children with autism, too.
TheraPutty is a silicone-based putty that comes in different levels of resistance. It is a popular putty option among parents, as it is non-toxic and doesn’t stick to surfaces. TheraPutty has been widely used as an educational and therapeutic tool for students with autism, as different exercises can be implemented to work on fine-motor skills and sensory input.
TheraPutty is a popular sensory toy for children or students who benefit from “fidget toys” to help them focus or calm down. When playing with TheraPutty, children experience sensory input while developing fine motor skills through stretching, twisting, and manipulating the putty while they use it for imaginative play, hiding small toys in it, and more. TheraPutty can be used with children ages three and up, as well as with adults.
3. Sensory Swings
Sensory swings are a popular choice for occupational therapists to help children with autism meet their sensory input needs, feel secure, and lessen anxiety. Autistic kids often struggle with sensory integration, meaning they struggle to combine different senses into a single experience.
The movement of swinging has been shown to help children with autism make these connections between different senses, and swings are often some of the best sensory toys. Swings also have been shown to calm children with autism and help alleviate anxiety.
There are specific swings that are marketed as “sensory swings,” and while not necessarily an “autism toy,” as all children can benefit from them, they may provide extra comfort for children with autism based on their physically snug design. One of the top-rated sensory swings on Amazon is the Harkla Sensory Swing, which markets itself as providing calming movement and compression. It is suitable for all ages and adults up to 200 lbs.
4. Fat Brain Dimple
The Fat Brain Dimple toy is another Fat Brain classic. While this is marketed towards younger babies and toddlers, it is an amazing fidget toy for children of all ages. Fidget toys often help children with autism pull their attention from other distracting sensory inputs and be able to focus. The Fat Brain Dimple is a saucer-like structure with colorful silicone bubbles that can press in.
The dimple toy comes in different sizes, but the smaller ones are excellent fidget toys for students with autism or not to use in class. So, while the Fat Brain Dimple isn’t marketed as an “autism toy” because it is such an excellent fidget toy and another toy that promotes fine motor skills, it is a popular toy and tool for those with autism.
5. Chew Necklace
Many children with autism struggle with body-focused repetitive behavior, like pulling hair and biting nails. Focusing their attention on chewing something can decrease negative body-focused repetitive behavior and help relieve anxiety and tension.
Chew necklaces have a pendant, usually made of silicone, that children can easily grab and chew on as needed throughout their day. A popular choice on Amazon is the Tilcare Chew Chew Sensory Necklace, marketed as a nontoxic silicone necklace helpful in reducing stress and anxiety. Though other chew necklaces are meant for younger children, this particular one is marketed for ages five and up.