Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) comes in many shapes and sizes, but often one of the most challenging aspects for those living with ASD is how best to respond to their sensory needs. Often, children with ASD will find it difficult to function and concentrate for long periods in social environments. They can find it more than a little stressful.
Sensory items then, whether toys or practical learning accompaniments, are designed to help with the sensory needs of children on the spectrum. As such, we’ve put together a helpful gift guide to help you provide a soothing gift, or fun tool, for a young child with ASD.
It’s also important to remember to be sensitive with sensory items – since many people on the spectrum may have sensory integration challenges (which is why you might be looking at a sensory gift in the first place!) Because of this, it is often better to choose a gift that provides ‘one’ specific sensory experience, such as something to touch (like Play Dough), something to listen to (a music box), or a light-up item.
Whilst all children are unique, the list below has been put together with the general sensory needs of children with ASD in mind. We do not directly endorse any of the products mentioned below, but just want to provide some helpful insight if you’re struggling to decide on a birthday gift or other present.
1. Visual Gifts
Does the child in question respond more vividly to visual stimuli? If so, a ‘visual’ gift such as a mood light, volcano, or jellyfish lamp is a great idea to offer some calming stimulation to them.
The idea isn’t to go over the top here with flashing lights and massive amounts of colour. But, a calming, soft glow or slow-moving lava lamp is usually just the amount of stimulation a child will need. Too much, and it may become an overwhelming experience, which is not good for a child with ASD.
2. Tactile Gifts
If the child generally prefers more ‘touchy’ toys or stimuli, such as wanting to put pressure on his/her palms or the soles of their feet, this can be taken into account when deciding on a present. Gifts such as a sensory pillow or sensory stuffed top are a fantastic way to provide some soothing comfort.
Toys and gifts that are tactile can often provide autistic children with some much-needed sensory engagement, which can be a soothing, calming influence.
3. Musical Gifts
Musical gifts often go hand in hand with the idea of ’cause and effect’. For example, an Alphabet Sound Puzzle that makes a happy noise when the correct letter is put in place.
This can help in multiple ways – by providing a fun experience that helps a child develop motor skills as well as cause and effect relationships.
These are just a few examples of gift ideas we think are suitable for younger children living with ASD. Feel free to let us know if you have any brilliant ideas of your own, and we’ll be happy to include them in this list!