Using Sensory Toys for Autism Therapy

Using Sensory Toys for Autism Therapy

The spectrum of autism can be extremely wide, making diagnosis, and therefore, therapy extremely challenging for both therapists and parents. Each child diagnosed presents a different set of challenges since no two children are affected in the same manner. The only characteristic of autism that can possibly be construed as similar is the child’s trouble with social skills. But even these can be varying, from mild to severe. Each child requires their own course of therapy tailored directly to their issues. Patients with sensory issues can be helped in their therapy with the use of sensory toys. These toys can help therapists/parents construct a therapy program aimed at a child’s ability to cope with sensory input.

What Are Sensory Toys?

Some children affected by autism have issues with sensory input. These children have a tough time interpreting external stimuli. The use of these toys in a structured therapy setting can provide a relaxing and calming environment. Items such as weighted blankets or lap pads, brushes, and pads with different textures can all help children acclimate themselves through positive reinforcement with external stimuli. Therapists and parents can incorporate these toys in a fun, game like environment that children won’t find stressful.

Examples of Sensory Toys

There are an abundance of therapy toys available to both therapists and parents. Once a child’s level of autism is diagnosed and the child’s needs are identified, these toys can be used in a game like environment to teach proper behaviors.

Texture Squares: the squares come with different tactile sensations. They are great for sensory exploration and tactile discrimination. They can even be incorporated into matching, sorting, and classifying activities. Fun and Function offers weighted tactile beanbags that can be incorporated into therapy sessions in many different ways.

Weighted Blanket/Lap Pad: these blankets and pads are designed to help children with sensory processing disorders. These disorders fall underneath the autism umbrella. This includes ADHD, TDD, and asp ergers. They use weight and pressure around them to help these children calm down and relax and sleep. They also allow for longer attention levels and can help with fidgeting during focused activities. Both Fun and Function and Sammons Preston offer weighted blankets and other weighted aids for sensory therapy.

Textured Rollers: these interchangeable rollers help children develop sensory awareness. By spinning the rollers, children can be rewarded with blinking lights, music, and adjustable vibration. Some even have a mirror on the base so a child can see their own hands. Each of these rollers has a different texture to encourage reaching, swiping, and grasping.

Swings: those affected with autism have a tough time combining all their senses. The use of these swings helps with Sensory Processing Disorders. Some children will find the rocking motion of the swings soothing and relaxing and can even increase concentration. Children with vestibular dysfunction may object to its use at first, but swinging therapy is more about regaining their equilibrium and tolerating vestibular stimuli. Haley’s Joy offers portable swing models (On the Go I&II) that are portable and easy to use while Playawaytoy offers swings that can be used in more confined areas.

Exercise Balls: these exercise balls can be used by a therapist/parent to help a child with autism during therapy. Not only do they strengthen core muscles, but they support vestibular therapy in a fun way. These exercise balls can even have a tactile element making them even more stimulating. Fun and Function offers a ball with hundreds of little bumps on it, increasing stimulation. You can roll the ball over children for a deep pressure tactile massage!!


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