When your child is diagnosed with autism, which is happening earlier and earlier this days, you’re thrown for a loop. What do I do next? Where do I start? How do we move forward? Through all of that though, your child is still your precious baby, no different than before the diagnosis. Life with autism is already challenging, so if we can help our kids deal with some of their difficulties and still play with toys in order to have fun and learn, we’ll do just about anything to make that happen. These toys for kids with autism are a great place to start.
Below I’m reviewing a few toys and a book that I wish had been available when my son was little. They were all given to me complimentary so I could share them with you here on my blog; if I’ve learned anything since I started blogging is that I love the opportunity to maybe help people by sharing cool things I’ve found. When it comes to autism, I hope to be able to help someone else dealing with the challenges young children on the autism spectrum face, so when I am done with this post, I’ll be donating the toys to a local autism family or organization.
I may have had to hide this No Mess Play Foam from Educational Insights. Foam like this was a big hit with my son, and I suspect that it’s something you just don’t grow out of. Kids with autism often have a hard time touching sticky, icky, slimy or wet stuff, so finding ways for them to become comfortable with it is a type of occupational therapy. We spent weeks just getting my son comfortable touching wet food, and then stage two was getting him to put it in his mouth. Foam like this allows parents to do that same type of desensitization at home in a way that’s appealing to kids. If they think they’re having fun, they’re more willing to participate. And it’s a parent-child activity as a bonus! It also serves as a tactile activity for children who really seek that type of feeling. When we were able to find something for our son that met the need, we found he finger-flapped less. You can find this on Amazon.com.
I think out of all these items, this Miracle Blanket is a lifesaver. For babies from newborn to 14 weeks, it allows the parent to easily provide a swaddling experience while helping the baby safely fall asleep. Some kids with autism show signs at a very early age of being easily rattled, to the point where normal household noises make them splay their arms and legs wide, waking them up fully and upsetting them. Swaddling any baby can help them sleep, but if a child has sensory issues, a nice snuggling blanket can help them simulate some of the ‘in the womb’ feeling while not being able to upset themselves further when startled. It’s the world’s most pediatrician-recommended swaddle, and is washable, and it has no velcro to scratch the baby while placing it in a soft, lateral belly wrap. I so wish I’d had this! You can find the gift of sleep available here at Miracleware.com.
All babies teeth, but sometimes babies with developmental disorders really need to chew on things. If they don’t have a proper and safe chew toy, they may gum or chew on their clothing, a blanket or someone else’s clothing. A safe teething ring like this one, made of silicone, has multiple textures and is durable enough to last through a lot of teething or stimming. It’s also inexpensive and can be found at Habausa.com.
This adorable alligator SoapSox, available at BuyBuyBaby.com, looks fun for every baby and toddler…or even an older child. Touted as a friend in the tub, SoapSox plush toys are a friend at playtime and bathtime. You can place a bar of soap into the patented soap pocket, via the mouth in the gator, and it helps clean an anxious child in the bath. Let it dry out or throw it briefly into the dryer and the SoapSox transforms into a bedtime cuddler. The sponge is anti-bacterial so you know it’s going to be safe with frequent use.
Isn’t it cute? There are a lot of animals to choose from.
Most kids with autism face social skills challenges. While they can be worse when children are younger and learning to relate to others, building relationships is a learned skill that can take years. Even kids without autism can struggle socially sometimes and social skills therapy programs can be costly and take some time. They’re not always covered by private insurance and sometimes it’s just one more thing for a stressed out autism parent to try to fit into an already crammed schedule. Written by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD and Christine McLaughlin, it’s full of research-based practical solutions that fit people of all ages. There are cartoons that fit both boys and girls and make it less work and more fun than many approaches to social skills. Confession: I’m reading this one completely and keeping it. (It’s a proof copy so the cover may change.) My son’s 16 now but there are things in here that would help him.
The book covers things like inviting friends, how to notice stop signals in relationships, how to say no when needed, blending in, speaking up and letting go in relation to making friends. This book on making and keeping friends is a worthy investment for any parent trying to help their child with social skills and making friends. Watching your child not have good friendships can be heartbreaking. One of my favorite cartoons was about Hannah’s haircut. Parents of autistic kids will understand that our children can be brutally honest. They don’t mean to be, but they are answering a question and not lying, so if someone says “Do you like my new hair cut?” they may just say no. The book approaches interactions such as this, showing them ways to respond without hurting feelings or lying. Helping them learn how to blend in can be critical building blocks to social success or fitting in on a level in which they’re comfortable. Available in July 2017, keep an eye out for this book!
Isn’t this little guy adorable? Now that they’re able to diagnose autism earlier and earlier, giving infants tactile opportunities with brightly colored toys can help parents see if they’re tracking or are interested in playing with toys. One-on-one time is such a great thing for the development of babies, and a rattly toy helps you determine how your child reacts to loud sounds. It’s a sign I was unaware to look for in my own son, until I started noticing more things were occurring. I wish I’d known more! You can find this Playgro Bead Buddy Giraffe at Amazon and other stores.
Many kids with autism respond favorably to water and water play. (Sadly, drowning is a very common cause of death for children with autism. They are drawn to it for some reason.) My son used to take 2-3 baths a day sometimes — not for cleanliness, but for calming — so an item like this Yookidoo Spin ‘n’ Sort Spout Pro would have been a fun interactive toy. Look at all the fun things it does!
I hope this helps anyone dealing with autism with the answer to some of the social or sensory issues our kids face. If you’re a friend or family member of a child on the ASD spectrum, these can also make great gifts for them or their parents. Be kind to those already stressed families and give them a hug, too!