written by: Barbara Smith
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 3/4/2011
The best toys for kids with Asperger’s syndrome are cognitively stimulating, address their sensory motor needs and build self-esteem.
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Best Toys for Kids with Asperger's: Meeting Sensory Needs
Children with Asperger’s syndrome often have sensory sensitivities that make them avoid certain textures, sounds, smells, and even certain visual stimuli such as bright lights. They may find touching paint or play dough to be aversive and prefer to manipulate plastic or wooden objects. However, every child is unique and parents and teachers need to explore what their sensory preferences are and try to increase their tolerance and flexibility by adapting activities.
For example, before offering finger paint, provide a zip lock bag filled with colorful paints that they can manipulate. Ring stacks that make music or pens that vibrate might help prolong attention to fine-motor activities. Many children with sensory issues prefer toys that involve squeezing and pushing such as connecting building blocks or pulling clothing attached with Velcro off a doll. The home-made “Velcro Bottle” shown below is ideal for toddlers who are learning how to insert objects into containers.
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Toys are tools for learning about the world and all children benefit from those that teach cognitive skills such as fitting shapes together, those that develop motor skills such as inserting string through a bead and toys that promote language concepts such as right and left.
The best toys for kids with Asperger’s syndrome are the ones that do not easily cause frustration, meet their sensory needs and are of high interest to the individual child.
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Bottle with Toys Attached with Velcro for Insertion Activity
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Best Toys for Kids with Asperger's: Addressing Strengths
Children on the autism spectrum often have exceptionally good visual skills and love puzzles, toys with patterns such as the Rubik's Cube and games of strategy such as chess. The best toys for kids with Asperger’s syndrome include ones that can be played with another child. They help to develop social skills, yet do not require good motor coordination (if that is an issue) in order to be fun. Suggested toys and activities include:
Card and board games
Performing magic tricks
Ripping paper to make a collages and other crafts
Sledding, scooter boards and water slide toys
Older children who have developed specialized interests such as rock collecting or the history of Native Americans would probably enjoy related toys such as a rock polishing machine or a kit to make moccasins.
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Toys that Might not be the Best for Kids with Asperger’s Syndrome
Some children with Asperger’s syndrome have poor coordination and may get easily frustrated with toys and games that involve timers, buzzers, speed or precision such as “pick-up sticks”, marbles, Operation, jacks, Jenga or the “Let’s Go Fishing” game. Although these toys are great for developing eye-hand coordination, parents should be careful to introduce toys that are not overly challenging.
Computer games often hold a huge attraction for kids on the autism spectrum because they are predictable, repetitive and exciting.But they can also be addictive. Parents should use discretion when allowing “screen” activities that take time away from physical exercise, social activities and creative play.
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“Autism: A comprehensive Occupational Therapy Approach”; Heather Miller Kuhaneck & Renee Watling; 2010.
“Understanding Autism for Dummies”; Stephen Shore & Linda Rastelli; 2006.
“Raising a Sensory Smart Child”; Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske; 2009.