April is National Autism Awareness Month, and one thing to be aware of is that autistic children benefit from play. Not only do they have fun, but play also has specific therapeutic benefits for them. Whether it fosters patience, turn-taking, social communication, and managing frustrations, toys and games can bring a lot of joy in so many ways.
However, with many children under stay-at-home orders, many autistic kids have been pulled from services that benefit their daily lives. Bringing in toys that suit their spectrum needs can especially help parents with the tools they need to get through these challenging times.
Look to groups that specialize in specific special needs resources like nationalautismresources.com or autismspeaks.org. They often have yearly gift guides for this population that parents can review now for inspiration. While those guides may be focused on the holiday gift-giving season, many of those toys are still available.
Many children with special needs have the same interests and wish lists as typically functioning kids. Parents often want toys that can be used for their special needs child, but also is a good toy for the other members of the family. Look for toys that can be played within many ways to customize that toy to your child’s needs. Read this post about the classic game Operation from Hasbro to give you an idea.
Though I believe that every toy can be repurposed in some way to accommodate the needs of the child, some toymakers develop toys that are more suitable for children with special needs. For example, Educational Insights, Peaceable Kingdom, MindWare and Moluk are brands that caregivers may especially be interested in.
Children need to engage with others for growth. With the coronavirus compromising these opportunities, it does not mean that the opportunities are not there. Try to set up a Zoom playdate. Have the other child have the same game for a unique virtual playdate experience. Having a toy or game that everyone can play fosters friendships. It enables children with special needs to have friends for play days, which is important for emotional development and a typical childhood experience.
With a little creativity and the right toy or game, autistic children can play, learn, and grow — even during these unprecedented times.