Play therapy is one of the most effective tools in teaching a child with autism no matter what his age is. This is also the reason why any therapist, whether it be a speech or occupational therapist, use this method to encourage engagement.
Although it can be challenging for a child with special needs to engage in play, it is important to include this in his activities because this will teach useful skills that the kid will need later on in life. If in case you are in the search for the right toy, check out this article first because this will give you tips on what is a good toy for a toddler with autism.
What is a Good Toy for a Toddler With Autism: Helpful Tips
The toy need not be age-appropriate.
Choosing the right toy for a toddler with autism will actually not depend on their age. The toys they need to play with need to be appropriate for their developmental stage, so you don’t need to look at the chronological age printed by the manufacturer on the box—except if it’s a choking hazard.
Now, the question, “What is a good toy for a toddler with autism?” can be disregarded because the better question is, “What is a good toy for the developmental stage of a toddler with autism?”
Give toys that help stimulate the senses.
Most children with autism have sensory issues which makes them unresponsive or overwhelmed with some external stimuli. So, by giving them sensory toys, you help them focus and soothe their nerves.
You just have to make sure that the sensory response they are getting is something that they want. Also, you have to show them what to do with certain toys so as to prevent them from being misused.
Let them play with toys that are calming.
Calming toys are some of the useful things that you can give children with autism because they are very sensitive to things that people who are not on the spectrum don’t find bothering. These toys will help them block out unnecessary stimuli and help prevent meltdowns and tantrums that are caused by such.
Give toys that encourage social interaction.
One of the most common characteristics of autism is the lack of social skills so it will be extremely helpful to give toys that will encourage them to learn how to socialize. Give toys that will teach them the different human emotions and encourage them to communicate especially for those who have speech delays.
A very good example is board games because you can let the whole family participate in it. This game will teach autistic children the concept of waiting, and that losing is fine because they may find this frustrating sometimes.
Provide toys that will allow them to exercise.
As you know, autistic children have very short attention span which is why physical activities are very important to help regulate them. Studies have shown that when they get exercise on a regular basis, they tend to pay more attention to what they are doing.
In addition, kids with autism are more prone to obesity so when you let them engage in physical activities, the risks related to obesity are greatly reduced.
Choose toys that are durable.
Children in the spectrum can get frustrated easily which can result in tantrums; therefore, it is necessary that they only play with toys that don’t get smashed easily in case they throw them away. This also ensures that the kids will be able to use the toys for a very long time and when they have outgrown it, you will be able to pass them on to other kids who will need them.
Pick toys that boost organizational skills.
One of the strengths of kids with autism is being skilled at understanding and creating a system. With that said, it is highly recommended to give them toys that will help develop this more. Toys such as building jigsaw puzzles and building blocks are greatly suggested because they hone not only organizational skills but also fine and gross motor skills.
Give toys that are challenging.
Toys that challenge children to think are also extremely important because it develops their problem-solving skills. Do make sure though that the toys you are giving are not too challenging for them so you need to assess as well if they can really do it or you can ask your child’s developmental pediatrician or therapist for suggestions.
Furthermore, kids with autism may refuse to play at first, but the solution to that is to show them what to do initially and then, let them do it on their own.
Do not overwhelm them with toys.
It is going to be helpful if you give them one toy at a time as opposed to giving them several—too many toys might just overwhelm them. Giving them too many toys might make them over excited which will cause them to lose their focus or throw a tantrum.
Therefore, a single toy will allow them to concentrate on exploring what you have given them first. Also, don’t feel hopeless if a toy does not appeal to your child; this is perfectly normal for such conditions. You can just keep the toy in the meantime and reintroduce it later on.
Similar to normal kids, children with autism can reap a lot of benefits from playing, and because their learning style is different, the appropriate toys are helpful in teaching them concepts that they will need as they grow old.
Furthermore, it can be challenging to buy the right toy that autistic kids can play with, but with a little bit of research and observation, you will be able to find the right one. Some trial and error may also be needed, so you need to be patient and don’t be heartbroken if they don’t respond to it at first.
If you have done everything and you are still unsure of what to get them, seeking the advice of an expert like a developmental pediatrician or an occupational therapist.
An expert’s assistance will surely be helpful because they will know which ones might work and which don’t. More importantly, you can always guide them but sometimes letting them explore on their own can also teach them things that you can’t.