Fun! Fun! Fun! Children love to have fun. If there is one thing many children (whether diagnosed with autism or not) have in common it is that they love to play with toys.
Of course, there are numerous toys on the market and most children have their favorites in which they engage in play. When shopping for toys for children with Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) it is important to select a toy that will easily amuse them.
If the toy also serves the purpose of fulfilling a need or providing a sense of accomplishment then you are ahead of the game.
It is helpful to keep in mind that not all toys are helpful to children with ASD and can even be harmful if they do not understand how to use them properly.
Keep the capability of the child in mind as well as considering their interests and needs. Everyone is different and one toy that might be perfect for a particular child may not be perfect for another.
Below you will find an overview of the types of growth and development that playing with the toys for children with autism can promote.
The Obvious Purpose of Toys!
What is the most obvious reason children play with toys? Take just a moment and think back to your own childhood.
Chances are that you had a favorite toy to play with and you also spent many hours playing with it. I bet you didn’t play with your favorite toy because it might have been educational or because it taught fine motor skills.
You most likely did not think of those things. You more than likely played with your favorite toy because it was fun for you!
Even though your toy was fun it likely did serve some sort of other purposes. If you love flying RC toys like RC Helicopter, RC Quadcopter etc, guess what…not only were you having fun but you were also learning how to fly and exercising flying motor skills. At the very beginning moment, you need to choose carefully the flying RC Copter toys which are built for beginners.
If another child was playing with the logs with you then you were also learning socialization skills such as teamwork.
There are many toys that have other purposes besides being fun, but to a child fun is the most important purpose.
If it isn’t fun or amusing a child will stop playing with it and toss it to the side, regardless of any other benefit the toy offers.
Children with ASD prefer toys that capture their attention and are amusing. These children are often captivated by a particular toy for hours on end.
Sharpening Gross Motor Skills-Using Those Big Muscles!
Students with ASD are typically in greater need for activities that develop gross motor skills since so many of them suffer from developmental delays.
It is quite common ASD students to fall in the poor or very poor category of motor skill development. Yet these skills are important. These skills enable a person to make larger coordinated movements using larger muscles of the body.
These skills could include movements as throwing, jumping, or even getting out of bed. There are many gross motor skill toys for children with autism. Big rubber balls or nerf balls teach throwing, catching, running, jumping, etc.
Some toys that teach gross motor skills are peg boards, balancing boards, large crawl tunnels, and trampolines and climbing nets.
Teaching Fine Motor Skills-Handling Those Itsy Bitsy Toys…
In most cases, children with ASD need desperate help in learning hand eye coordination. There are many toys that teach autistic children fine motor skills.
One toy that almost all children seem to enjoy playing with is Legos. In my own experience, I worked with a particular student with autism that, if she was allowed to, would play with legos all day long.
She would build a tower of legos until all the legos were used and then take it apart and start over again. This was an excellent activity to help her develop her fine motor skills.
Some other toys that would be helpful in developing fine motor skills would include sculpting objects with playdoh, necklace making toys using beads, building blocks, bead sequencing sets, sorting games and peg boards.
With a little searching, you can find a number of toys that could fill the need of developing fine motor skills.
Is the Child squirming and fidgety? These Toys Will Help!
One characteristic I noticed right when I first started working in ESE ASD classrooms was just how many students with ASD were fidgety and just could not sit still.
Some were runners and had to be restrained in some way in order to keep them from wandering off to all ends of the earth. They have the desire to go and go.
Toys that might help these students fulfill their needs to move and fidgets are sensory toys. These toys are designed to appeal to the child’s senses whether it is tactile, visual or sound.
Using these toys can have the benefit of allowing movement and at the same time improve concentration in the classroom.
Sensory toys can include stretchy balls, spiked balls, toys that glow or light up, tops and other toys that spin. These types of toys can help capture a child’s attention or can be used to calm them or prevent fits of anger.
Finally, these toys can be used as a reward for good behavior or for small accomplishments throughout the day.
These are just a few areas that toys serve a beneficial purpose for children with ASD. Toys are built in such a way which provides amusement and fun with a development of motor skill and sensory strike.
When shopping toys for your children it will be helpful to keep these in mind as well as any other needs of the child
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