As the holiday season approaches, many of us are doing some shopping for some of our favorite people. If your list includes a child with autism or other special needs, you may be interested in considering a sensory-friendly gift.
At Innovative Behavior Options, we’d love to help you choose just the right presents for the children on your list – gifts that can be fun, comforting, and even therapeutic. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite sensory-friendly gift ideas to help you get started. Happy shopping!
What is a sensory-friendly toy?
Many children with autism crave a particular sensory input, and sensory toys provide children with just that. Whether it’s tactile, visual, or auditory (or engages another sense!), a sensory toy can capture a child’s attention, provide comfort, or help with focus.
In ABA therapy, the perfect sensory toy can be used as a reward to reinforce a particular behavior. At school, fidget toys can help children concentrate and improve focus while keeping their hands busy. Sensory toys can even be used to help children with autism calm themselves when they need some extra help.
What makes a good sensory-friendly gift?
A good sensory gift is going to vary from child to child. Children thrive on different sensory input, so knowing the interests and needs of your little gift recipient is certainly best. In general, though, toys that are squishy, can spin, or light up generally work well. One suggestion: look for toys that engage two or more senses at once.
Our Favorite Gift Ideas
We’ve divided some our favorite sensory-friendly toys into categories based on which sense they primarily stimulate.
Tactile/Kinetic: Tactile and kinetic toys can help hone attention, provide comfort and calm, and even just get the wiggles out. Below are a few of our favorites:
- Exercise balls
- Kinetic sand
- Water beads
- Ball pit
- Weighted blanket
- Toys that spin
Visual: Visual toys can provide calming reminders (cues) and help a child re-find their focus, without overstimulation. Here are some of our favorites:
- Picture cards (Carson Dellosa cards are great!)
- Dry erase board
- iTunes gift card for learning apps
Auditory: Auditory-friendly items can help block out extra noise or provide quiet when it’s needed most. Many children with autism are comforted by a sound machine, ear plugs, or noise-canceling headphones in some situations.
Of course, it’s always easier for kids to focus and relax once they’ve had a chance to burn off a little energy. Memberships or gift cards to places with trampolines or bounce houses are always wonderful gifts for kids (whether or not they have autism or other special needs)!
If you’re interested in learning more about how we incorporate sensory-friendly items into ABA therapy, please let us know! We have a calm down room and plenty of sensory-friendly toys throughout our Roswell, GA therapy center, and we’d love to share them with you and your child!