The difficulties and symptoms of each child with autism are not the same. Therefore, the education method applied to each child is different. One of the most effective methods for treating autism is play therapy. The importance and effect of educational toys and tools in the treatment of autism is enormous.
Play is an activity that exists in every period of life, especially in the first years of life, it is the most convenient way for the child to recognize the world in which they live and to express feelings such as happiness, anxiety, and joy. Children learn to explore, to imitate models they see in life and to develop their existing skills while in play.
Especially in the first years of life, a play has more importance for children with autism than normally developed children. Because it is the most appropriate way of expression. Choosing educational toys for children learning to explore within the game is as important as the game itself.
For children on the spectrum, the play itself, the way they play, the toys preferences, the way they play with them, and so on are slightly different from their normally developed peers. It is very important to include the activities that attract their attention. You need to find a way to make them enjoy the activities. Therefore, the selection of toys and games is important.
It should be the first goal to teach children on the spectrum to play with toys. When choosing educational toys, there are some important elements such as visual stimulation, auditory stimulation, tactile stimulation and stimulation of the body.
Children with autism often have eyes rotating. For example, they enjoy playing with their fingers in front of their eyes. For this reason, in order to reduce the need for the visual warning, rotating lamps, flashlight, hourglass, wheel, light bars, magnetic balls, whiteboards, light gun, and binoculars are suitable toys to buy.
Children with autism who are trying to sing songs mumbles as if they are vocals. Children with autism who like to sniff out their tongue click their fingers on the items. For this reason, it is necessary to select the sound toys that change the auditory stimuli. In this context ringing, pipe, whistle, radio, talking toys, music boxes and piano-style toys are suitable.
Children with autism like to caress their own body and pinch themselves, and also they can put their fingers in their mouths. In order to change the tactile stimulants, toys such as fish rods, puppets with rope movement and flute should be selected.
Stimulation of the body
Children on the spectrum put their body into different shapes. For example, walking on toes, moves heads to the side, turning around themselves, etc. Therefore, the most suitable toys are horses, wagons, swing, and hammock.
In addition to this, there are toys that are educational and attention-enhancing, sets of toys that are useful in gaining manual dexterity, apparatuses that make life easier for children with autism.
For example, the colored and different shaped beads are arranged in the education setting, in many categories colored educational cards, pilates, and bounce balls, animal figures and toys have an important place in the education of children with autism.
Therapy brush, barbed sensory ball, blowing ball, chewing tubes, therapy mirror, symbol reinforcement materials, motor cards and many other products facilitate the work of parents and trainers in the education and daily activities of children with autism and have an important place in the treatment of autism.
Toy Preference for Children with Autism
Toys are the most important factors affecting children’s life. They have an incredible impact on their development. Because children are constantly in touch with the environment while playing. On the other hand, not every toy positively affects your child’s development. So, in terms of these properties, toys preference is more important if you have a child on the spectrum.
As with all children, the game is very important for children with autism in terms of social development. However, children with autism and normally developed children exhibit different toy preferences and ways of playing.
Normally developed child after the age of 1 year can play with objects in accordance with the function, this situation cannot be observed in children with autism. They play with their toys in a way not appropriate for their function. They are interested in objects in a more obsessive manner. For example, watching the sound and light objects for hours, shaking the rope for hours, and open and close the door for hours.
In particular, if you have a child with autism, you should pay attention to how you choose a toy and choose suitable toys for children with autism. Inaccurately made toy selections can cause problems in your children’s lives in the future.
Depending on the child’s special needs and circumstances, the toys that are chosen for them must be toys that will not bear their mind. Thanks to the educational toys, parents, and teachers can make the child communicate more easily with the outside world. Depending on the development process, they can help the child with autism grow with the help of selected toys.
Every child is special, but it is a known fact that children with autism need a more specific interest in understanding, relationship building, problem-solving, and insufficient perception. For children with autism, appropriate toys should be selected to help the child complete these deficiencies.
Children with autism have great difficulty in communicating with their peers or with the outside world. This negatively affects the development of their social skills. However, changing the playing habits of the child is in the hands of parents.
Playing has a positive impact on a child with autism’s mental development, but forcing to play a game has the opposite effect on them. Because of having a very annoying and frustrating character, they do not want to be involved when somebody insists to play.
Therefore, a different approach should be followed. Let the child set up his own game and get involved in his game with very slow steps. Others should play as much as they want and at any time. Otherwise, even the most educational toy will not work.
People around them can also play with the child without toys. They will enjoy running and jumping games. However, the eye contact should be maintained and communication should be constant between caregiver and the child. Mothers can turn these into a game by asking for help from the child while doing household chores.
Children with autism play a different way of playing. Nevertheless, parents can still get what they think will contribute to the child’s development. These include dolls, trucks, and cars. Also, jigsaw type toys will help the child develop basic skills.
In addition to the games played with toys, imaginary games should also be taught to the child with autism. For example, games can be played by asking animals to imitate sounds. With certain instructions, it is possible to enter the game by keeping the child’s interest active in a fun way.
If the game is played with different children, it is very important for each child to have the same toy. During play, both parents and trainers should be actively involved in the game.
Beneficial Toys and Tools for Children with Autism
There are some toys that can provide the best opportunities for play and can have a positive impact on children. While normally developed children play with it on their developmental age, children with autism can play later. If there is still a positive effect on them, it can be played by children with autism too. Here are some of them;
Pressure vest provides calming deep pressure to individuals with autism. It customizes to tailor the hugging effect. These deep pressure vests can be an effective tool for helping an individual with sensory differences.
It has an easy to adjust mechanism. It consists of two pieces with hook and look closures. You can close with the help of those closures on the shoulders. It provides the right amount of pressure to make them comfortable and feel safe.
Palm-Sized Massage Balls
It is an alerting product for individuals with autism. It is swarming with stimulating tactile points. It is a great tool for mini ball massages and keeping restless fingers calm and happy. Palm-sized massage balls are not only for individuals with autism, but it is also good sensory balls for fidgeters and tactile sensory seekers.
Sensory Finger Squeezer
It is a bendable, flexible and squeezable rubbery loop. These loops are dotted with tiny sensory bumps. These bumpers provide a sneaky touch of tactile input. It is a finger-strengthening fidget designed for individuals with sensory disabilities, individuals with emotional disabilities and individuals with autism to provide tactile input.
There are 3 colors of them which are blue, green and yellow. There are 3 colors according to resistance levels. Blue for soft, green for medium and yellow for hard resistance.
This tool is perfect for motor movements, especially fine motor movements, bilateral coordination, and finger strength because of the structure. It is two balls in one. It arrives as a smooth squishy ball, however, turn it inside out and it becomes a soft spiky ball.
It can be used for the development of fine motor movements, hand-eye coordination, and tactile experience by flipping upside down. It can be used as a fidget toy and a source of tactile stimulation. This tool is very soft and pliable, so making it a tactile will be a delight for the child with autism’s fingers. They are also great toys for anyone with sensory processing disabilities and coordination challenges. Most of the time, they are comorbid with autism, that’s why it is very beneficial for individuals with autism.
This tool is related to social skills and speech-language. It is a small, lightweight and hands-free auditory feedback device. It helps children hear phonemes and their own voices more clearly. It allows them to speak softly into it while listening to the clarity of their words.
It strengthens the learning process by making the sound more obvious and minimizing auditory distractions in the environment. It gives an opportunity to focus much better on what they are learning.
It gives an opportunity to turn any activity into a game. It is one of the most flexible manipulatives for creating and expanding random events for math games and activities. It is an amazing fine motor skills tools. It is simple to incorporate into the visual motor and academic activities to up the fun factor and therapeutic benefits. Besides those benefits, there are blanks on little spinners that you can write something, for example, in order to arrange a daily schedule.
Self Calming Cards
They are an effective way for children with autism to learn different self-calming techniques. It is a fun way to teach them what to do when they are angry, anxious or frustrated. These cards are exemplified in 6 categories which are physical, visual, auditory, creative, self-nurturing and humor.
Each card describes a different way that they can soothe themselves. In order to do that, each card’s back has a child-friendly scenario of the tool and directions for teaching the strategy. Also, there are additional cards that provide activities and games which help reinforce learning those strategies. For using these cards with individuals with autism, age does not matter much. Each calming card includes suggested activities from toddler to adult.
Alphabet Letters Set
It is used for teaching children with autism the correct way to form their uppercase letters because they are mostly magnetic letters that they can use easier. Children use a pencil-like magnetic tool to write. Tiny metal balls pop up like magic to create the lines for creating letters. The whiteboard becomes their paper and their fingertips become the eraser. It is a perfect and fun way to learn how to hold writing tools correctly.
I Can Tie My Own Shoelaces Kit
This kit is important for both bilateral coordination and daily life routines. It provides a fun way to teach how to lace and tie their shoes without help. It encourages the development of 2-handed because they need to use two hands while doing this activity. It is a wonderful educational and skill-building learning tool for practicing anywhere.
Visual Time Timers
It is an extremely simple toy that is geared toward individuals with autism. It provides an unobtrusive timer and alarm to complete time-drawn tasks. It makes time awareness easy to understand and to monitor by providing clear and visual feedback of time remaining and elapsed for tasks. Furthermore, it is important for maintaining daily routines without the help of someone. Also, an auditory beep option can be added depending on the child’s need.
“I Can Do It” Token Reward Boards
It is a behavioral strategy based on a token economy. Once the desired behavior is made, the person earns tokens, which can be exchanged with real prizes such as a portion of special food, watching TV, passing through the class. The opposite behavior is not rewarded. The number of symbolic awards earned in this behavior modification technique is proportional to the amount of behavior.
This board helps children with autism visualize progress towards a reward they are working for. Each board has 5 small spaces to mark the child’s progress. Whenever a child completes a task, a star is written in one of the spaces. When the child gets 5 stars, he or she gets the ultimate reward. It is an effective tool for children who have difficulties focusing and behavioral challenges. That’s why it would be very beneficial for children with autism.
It can be used especially for improving hand-eye coordination. Also, it makes a versatile fine motor skill, especially developing pincer grasps. It is a perfect educational toy for children with autism. Children can play with magnetic cards by holding wands and trying to collect cards which parents litter something around.
Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that chips are designed to be used with magnetic wands, it means they are only magnetic when used with magnetic wands.
Simple First Words: Let’s Talk
In this game, there are pictures on cards and sounds related to those cards. Children should look at those pictures first and locate the matching button on the sound bar. Then, they should press the button to hear the word. That’s all they have to do. There should not be any other sound effects or music to cause distraction in the environment.
Parents can reinforce finger-pointing skills. For children who are unable to isolate individual fingers, parents should encourage them to use several fingers or a whole hand movement.
It is a very useful and beneficial toy for both normally developed children and children with autism. These sound puzzles provide skill-building opportunities, especially for children who are problem-solvers. There are types of these puzzles such as related to transportation, vehicles, animals or even it could be a map. But the map version is not useful for children with autism if the child has no specific interest.
Children need to use their pincer grasp to lift each puzzle piece by its knob. When it is done correctly, children are rewarded with realistic transportation sounds, animal sounds or whatever is placed in the board. These sounds provide positive reinforcement. Also, illustrations provide visual cues. So, in short, this game provides both auditory and visual enhancement to children on the spectrum.
Jumpsmart Electronic Trampoline
In this tool, children will jump for joy as they bounce along to fun learning games and songs. It has 5 fun games: bounce counting, silly sounds, musical statues, animal sounds, and memory matches. As they bounce, children will receive stimulation and input from their joints which can help in order to regulate and provide inner balance. It has a positive effect on attention and organizational skills.
Every bounce is rewarded with sounds or music. This reinforcement helps further cause and effect on learning and it motivates the child with autism to keep jumping. Also, besides those benefits, it is enjoyable for adults too. That’s why it helps to improve communication between child and parents.
2-In-1 Snug’N Secure Swing
This 2-in-1 swing features a bar that provides rotation easily. There are adjustable stay-put straps that hold the child securely in place. If the child does not require the T-bar or straps, they can be easily moved to the bottom of the swing to be stored conveniently out of the way. For children with autism, most of the time T-bar and straps are used.
The swing provides a fun-filled way for children with autism or for normally developed children in early periods in order to help improve their vestibular function while developing abilities of visual, spatial, perceptual and postural control.
In addition to rotating T-bar, the high seat back, safety belt, deep seat well, and high sides provide an extra boost to providing confidence to children with autism at the beginning to explore motion.
Computer Applications for Children with Autism
In today’s world, applications have an important place in the education of children with autism. In particular, the game platforms based on applied behavioral analysis support the lack of education of the child with autism and help them to have the same skills as their peers.
It has always been a problem to draw the attention of children with autism to a point. Computer applications developed for children with autism who have learning difficulties due to lack of concentration are the best gift of today’s technology to children and families with autism. It is possible to keep children’s attention at the same point for a much longer time with games that are appropriate for their age and education.