Can Sensory Toys Help Autism In Children?
While toys are essential in helping to develop a child’s motor, social and creative skills, are they helpful for children who suffer from autism or other special needs? The answer to that is most definitely, yes!
In fact, stimulation from toys for these children is probably even more important and should be engaged with and encouraged as much as possible. Sensory toys help autistic children to problem solve, which is something many struggle with on a daily basis. To us it may look like they are simply playing, but for those with special needs, it is a vehicle for them to express themselves and truly engage in the process of education.
Autism affects millions of children throughout the world and this condition affects their ability to learn in what may be termed as the conventional way. Therefore, it is important to have the right kind of sensory toys for autistic children’s educational needs. An increasing number of schools are now becoming aware of this and are incorporating specific toys for their special needs students into classrooms.
These toys should focus on hand eye coordination, tuning the fine and gross motor skills and encouraging positive social interaction. Usually, autistic children tend not to choose age appropriate toys but rather choose what toy suits them and what they are attracted to at their own individual level of development. So, the focus needs to be on the developmental function of the toy rather than the child’s actual age. Sometimes older children with autism gain maximum benefit from a toy which is designed for a much younger child, such as blocks or even a simply throwing ball.
Children with autism need a lot of sensory stimulation as they can face daily challenges and difficulties with touch and textures. Toys such as sand and water tables, together with other items such as balls with bumpy surfaces and blocks can all offer tactile response experiences. These things can help with them overcoming their aversions and help them interact with the surrounding world .
The difficulties that parents and teachers regularly come up against is being able to strike a balance between stimulation and over-stimulation, while still being able to offer an autistic child the opportunity to explore and create with sensory toys. Studies have shown that when the right balance is achieved in sensory play, it helps the child with information retention. An example of this is to let the child’s hand play with the sand or water while being taught a lesson at the same time. This sensory exposure appears to help the child to connect to the lesson more and this of course can be applied in a similar way at home, helping both child, parent and educator achieve a positive outcome with play.