Sunday, November 20, 2011

Choosing Good Toys For Low-Functioning Autistic Children

Children are diagnosed as growing up with low-functioning autism based on the intensity of symptoms and results from intelligence tests. What does this mean exactly for the mother or father who wants to purchase the appropriate toys for these schoolchildren? It means that children with low-functioning autism are more likely to display one or more of the following behaviors:

  • An inability to articulate themselves using language or to comprehend language
  • An inability to live without assistance from others
  • An inability to use normal nonverbal gestures used for communication
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Has a preference for being solitary
  • Lacks physical coordination
  • Either a strong sensitivity to sensory stimulation, or a lack of sensitivity to such stimulation (sounds, lights, touch, tastes, odors)
  • Emotions flip-flop to extremes, such as breaking down seemingly without reason.
  • Very rash
  • Very combative
  • May like to self-injure
  • Physical manifestations, such as being below their peer group in weight and stature
  • Lags other children in their age range academically

Because of these symptoms, choosing an appropriate toy for kids with low-functioning autism is especially difficult. Even though high-functioning autistic kids may play and learn well with age-appropriate toys, low-functioning autistics may require toys designed for children below their age group, meaning toys that pose no safety hazards and are easier to comprehend.

Characteristics of Good Toys

Low-functioning autistic children have struggles expressing themselves verbally, which prevents them from communicating with others with ease and forces them to spend most of their time in solitary activities. They are therefore inclined to gravitate towards toys that allow them to play alone and become familiar with such toys. But if these toys can also be used for playing with others, you may have an easier time getting them to use the toy as a way to communicate with others.

Because of their emotional extremes and the risk that they might show aggression towards others or themselves, you will want toys that are safe to play with and won't lead to risk of injuring others. (This means don't choose toys that shoot missiles!)

Finally, toys that help them improve their motor abilities will be crucial during their youth because this is an important period for motor development.

Specific Toy Suggestions

The most appropriate toys are those that capture the interest of babies and toddlers because low-functioning autistic children operate at a level several years below other children of their age.

For alone-play toys that can also be played with others and are safe, a good choice may be cloth hand puppets, such as those made by Melissa and Doug. Melissa and Doug manufactured a variety of low-cost ($10-$20) hand puppets that range from dragons to princesses. Something to be careful about is the wooden dowel that comes with the puppet for use in manipulating the arm. You can easily detach this from the puppet if you are afraid that it might cause safety issues.

Creation sets for young children are also an appropriate selection for toys that can be played alone as well as with adults. Duplo (the young child's version of Lego) is a typical choice, as well as a variety of toddler stacking toys such as the Fisher-Price Little Superstar Classical Stacker. These toys generally run $20-40.

Wooden Puzzles are also good, safe options for solitary and adult time play activities. Again, Melissa and Doug is an appropriate option for these toys since they are inexpensive, pleasing to the eye, and safe for young kids.

Finally, soft balls marketed for toddlers are good choices for use in developing motor skills. The best way to make use of such toys is to work with the child in catch and throw games, which will develop manual dexterity. Plush balls are great options, and you should stay away from foam balls such as those made by Nerf since a child could easily ingest bits of the foam.

Thanks for reading this article, and I hope it helps you in your search! Another article that is useful may be one about shopping for autism toys.

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