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Children with autism view objects and toys differently from the way we do. A child with autism may be far more satisfied playing with a crushed candy wrapper than a Superman doll. However, allowing children to be engaged in their world of spinning tops and candy wrappers all day will inhibit their development and learning. Thus, it is essential that we as teachers and parents provide the right toys that children with autism will enjoy, as well as learn from. This article focuses on toys for autistic boys and how we can use them to help children with autism develop and learn.
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Toys that Autistic Boys May Not Understand:
Boys with autism understand the world in a very literal way. Thus, they may have difficulty understanding toys based in worlds or characters that they cannot see and understand. Imaginative and pretend play is slow to develop in children with autism, and thus it is important to ensure that any pretend play equipment is as close to reality as possible. Too many toys may get confusing for a child with autism. Try to keep few toys accessible, and change these on a regular basis.
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Toys for Sensory Integration:
Children with autism enjoy playing with sensory toys. Playing with sensory toys is also important for the development of their sensory systems. Sensory toys can also be used as rewards for doing some other activity they do not particularly enjoy.
Sensory toys include:
Visual toys like lighted toys, torches, serial lights and brightly colored toys
Auditory toys like musical instruments, noise makers, rattles, musical toys
Tactile toys and games like sand play and water play, finger painting, art and craft activities, stuffed toys.
Proprioceptive and vestibular toys and games like jumping on a trampoline, crawling through tunnels, swings and slides, rocking chairs.
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Toys for Development of Social Skills:
Toys can also be used to develop social skills in children with autism. Providing toys and simple games that require more than one person to play encourage the development of social skills in boys with autism. A bat and ball, flying saucers and similar games that require two can be given. However, the child will require additional support and encouragement to play with other children. Avoid competitive games as boys with autism may not fully understand the concept of competition.
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Toys for the Development of Pretend Play:
Pretend play is one of the areas of play that develops slowly in boys with autism. Boys with autism find it difficult to imagine and think beyond what is happening in the present. They also sometimes find it difficult to pretend objects are something that they are not. A child with autism may need to be guided through pretend play, especially when new objects are introduced. A child may also need an adult to help him “convert” everyday objects into pretend play toys. Pretend play can also be used to teach a child with autism various life skills. Some toys that can be used for pretend play are a large toy car, a pretend filling station, a doctor’s kit, dress up materials etc.
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Where to Buy Toys:
Remember that children with autism are slightly different, and sometimes you may need to think beyond your regular toy store. Craft supply stores, and even just your supermarket may be a better place to find interesting objects, colors and textures that an autistic boy would enjoy. A collection of microwaveable dishware may be more fun for a child with autism than Barbie sized cookware.
If you have toys for autistic boys to suggest, please leave them in the comments section. You can find more resources about toys for autism right here at Bright Hub..
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Sher, B. (2009). Early Intervention Games. USA: Jossey- Bass.
Volkmar, F. R. (2007). Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.