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Best Toys for Kids with Autism as Recommended by Therapists

Sensory Friendly Toys that Don’t Involve Electronics

Welcome to our exploration of the beautiful world of toys uniquely crafted for children with autism. Selecting toys for kids with autism involves a delicate dance between understanding sensory needs, promoting skill development, and, most importantly, ensuring hours of joy and engagement. In this blog, we’ll delve into a curated list of favorite toys that cater to the diverse interests and preferences of children with autism.

 

Sensory Toys: A Symphony of Textures and Colors:

 

 

Cause-and-Effect Wonders:

 

 

Educational Gems:

  • Puzzles: Offering a mix of challenge and satisfaction, puzzles contribute to cognitive development and problem-solving skills.
  • Building Blocks: The timeless joy of building and creating, these blocks encourage imaginative play and enhance fine motor skills.

 

Calming Oasis:

  • Weighted Blankets: Not exactly a toy, but a soothing addition to any space, providing comfort and a sense of security.

 

 

Communication and Social Play:

 

  • Board Games: Structured play with clear rules, board games provide a fun way to learn social interaction and turn-taking.

 

Outdoor Adventures:

 

 

Artistic Expression:

  • Playdough Fun: The joy of squishing, molding, and creating with playdough offers a satisfying tactile experience.
  • Markers and Crayons: Encouraging creativity, drawing, and coloring provide an expressive outlet for children with autism.

 

Choosing toys for kids with autism is a personalized journey that requires attention to individual preferences and needs. The toys mentioned above are just a glimpse into the vast array of options available, each offering a unique way to engage, inspire, and bring joy to children on the autism spectrum. As you embark on this exploration, remember to observe, communicate, and, most importantly, have fun discovering the perfect toys for your child’s unique world.  Check out our specially curated Amazon Storefront for more toy suggestions!

 

Why Is My Child Picky About Clothing?

Is your child picky about clothing? It is common for children to have a favorite shirt, blanket, or pants, but what if they refuse to wear anything besides their one outfit of choice? In the pediatric world of occupational therapy, we often work with children who cannot tolerate wearing various clothing items. We have seen the stress of dressing tasks for children and their caregivers. The intended purpose of this blog is to educate parents on why a child may be sensitive to clothing and point caregivers in the right direction to address these concerns.

Why is My Child Picky About Their Clothing?

Every child processes sensory information differently. Children who demonstrate intolerance to various clothing textures may often have sensory sensitivities to tactile (touch) information, also known as tactile defensiveness. This indicates that the neurons responsible for processing tactile information have lower neurological thresholds, meaning more sensory information reaches their brain quicker, which can cause children to become overwhelmed by the stimulus. This results in heightened responses (ex., Crying, screaming, itching) when a child is prompted to wear clothing that feels uncomfortable to them. Another underlying reason for tactile sensitivities can be connected to retained primitive reflexes. Retained primitive reflexes often contribute to a child’s hypersensitivity to general sensory information and can make clothing items with tags or tight waistbands challenging to wear. 

When Should I Be Concerned About My Child’s Intolerance for Clothing?

It can be hard to discern when a child’s intolerance to clothing is a behavioral or sensory concern. A child who doesn’t “like” to wear a particular clothing item or texture is very different from a child who physically cannot tolerate certain textures. True sensory concerns will present with consistent behaviors across settings. For example, a child with true tactile defensiveness will have difficulty wearing a non-preferred clothing item at home or daycare. Additionally, consulting a professional is not customarily warranted if their limited clothing items do not impact a child’s performance and participation in meaningful activities. However, if a child’s clothing sensitivities are impacting their meaningful activities, then it may be beneficial to talk with a pediatric occupational therapist to determine what options or strategies are appropriate. An example could be a child who wants to play soccer but cannot tolerate wearing soccer cleats or sneakers and, therefore, refuses to play. Another example would be a child or adolescent who refuses to wear clothing to match the temperature outside, such as refusing to wear gloves or mittens in the middle of winter.

Strategies to Expand A Child’s Wardrobe

  • Keep a diary/log:
    • Children will normally demonstrate a pattern of behaviors to show caregivers what types of clothing are uncomfortable. It will be essential to keep a log of what items/fabrics are preferred to limit the child’s discomfort when presented with new clothing items to try on. 
  • Present sensory-friendly clothing:
    • There are common characteristics of clothing that can be aversive to children with tactile defensiveness. For these reasons, we have provided a list of clothing items that are often more tolerable for sensory-sensitive children:
      • Clothing without seams
      • Clothing without tags
      • Loose fitting clothing
      • Soft/smooth fabric
      • Breathable clothing: avoid clothing that holds moisture
  • Invite them into the process:
    • Providing the child with autonomy in choosing their clothing will help remove feelings of stress that surround dressing activities. One way to do this is to take them shopping and ask them what clothing they want. Depending on the child’s comfort level, it can also be beneficial to have them choose a variety of clothing to try on and have a “fashion show” in the dressing room.

 

What Other Concerns Can arise with Children Being Picky About Clothing, and How Can Carolina Therapy Connection Help?

Tactile defensiveness does not only impact a child’s ability to tolerate various clothing items. Typical areas of difficulty for tactilely defensive children include, but are not limited to, difficulty with hair brushing/washing, hair cuts, tooth brushing, nail clipping, and bathing. If your child has difficulty tolerating any of the above activities, then it may be beneficial to meet with a pediatric occupational therapist to discuss the best care plan for the child. Call our clinic at (252) 341-9944! Your child may benefit from an occupational therapy screening or formal evaluation!

 

By: Emily Britt

 

What is AAC?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. It encompasses all of the ways in which an individual may communicate outside of speaking verbally. Augmentative communication means to add to someone’s existing speech skills, and alternative means to be used in place of verbal speech. There are many different kinds of AAC including, but not limited to: gestures, facial expressions, writing, pictures symbols (e.g., picture exchange communication system/ PECS), drawing, sign language, high-tech speech generating devices, communication boards, etc. Some people may use one of these modalities, and some may use multiple modalities depending on the way in which they can most quickly and clearly communicate the topic.

Who Needs AAC?

Many different people use AAC throughout their lifetime. It can be used across the lifespan by any age, at any time, and for a variety of different reasons. Some people use AAC for their entire life, and some use it for only a short period of time. AAC can help any person who has difficulty fully or partially meeting their daily communication needs such as expressing wants and needs, socializing, asking questions, and a variety of other functions.

 

 

How can AAC help your child?

AAC may be able to help your child if they have difficulty being understood by others, have a limited vocabulary, demonstrate limited spontaneous speech, are non-speaking, and a variety of other different reasons. There are no prerequisite skills to your child beginning to use AAC. One common misconception is that AAC will hinder language development or cause your child to become dependent on it for communication. While some children may have minimal to no verbal speech throughout their lifetime, there is research to show that AAC can actually help children to develop language. Using AAC can also help to reduce frustration surrounding communication attempts, and help your child to communicate their needs more clearly, quickly, and effectively.

 

 

Parent’s Role in AAC

When introducing AAC to your child, it is important for family members/ caregivers to make the commitment to help the child succeed with the chosen AAC device. Your input is crucial in helping to choose and develop an appropriate AAC system, and using the device at home and in the community is a vital step to help both you and the child continue to learn the system. According to Jane Korsten, SLP, the average 18-month-old has been exposed to 4,380 hours of oral language at a rate of 8 hours/ day from birth. A child who has a communication system (AAC) and receives speech/language therapy 2 times/week for 20-30 minutes will reach the same amount of language exposure (in their AAC language) in 84 years. It is our role as professionals and caregivers to help minimize the communication gap between oral language users and AAC users. 

Modeling:  Modeling is an awesome way to both learn your child’s AAC system, and teach them an example of how they can use it. The best way to model is to speak and use the system at the same time, although you do not always have to select an icon for every word you say. For example, you may verbally say “time to go to school” while modeling “go” and “school” on the AAC system. A general rule of thumb is to model the number of icons your child is currently using, plus one. If your child uses 1 icon at a time, you may choose to model 1-2 icons at this time. It is important to model without expectation, meaning that you use the AAC system without expecting or requiring the child to respond, withholding items or activities, or “testing” their skills. The goal is to provide an example to the AAC learner, which they will then learn by watching and listening to what you do/say.

 

How can CTC help you and your child?

Whether your child is already receiving speech/language therapy services at our clinic or not, CTC is ready to help support both parents and children through their own individual journey with Augmentative and Alternative Communication. If you believe that your child may benefit from the use of AAC, talk to one of our many incredible speech-language pathologists to begin the process of figuring out what type of system (no tech, low-tech, mid-tech, high-tech) will work best. This process can take time, but with your support and the support of your SLP, it is possible to find the right system for your child!