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Top 10 Sensory Gifts for Autism Spectrum Children

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Shopping for a child is a fun and rewarding experience, if you can get through the lines, crowds and money issues. The holiday season brings with it stimulation over-load, and many of us become more keenly aware of what it is like for the Autism spectrum child. This is how they feel all of the year.

Autism spectrum children are the same as other children in how they are all different. What one child may love, another will find boring or worse, run screaming from the room. Though I have only seen the latter once.

Many Autism Spectrum Disorder kids or ASD kids have particular interests and obsessions. My son currently is engaged in all things Mario, Minecraft and anything to do with his computer. He has had previous obsessions with flash lights, calculators and thermometers. Of course any of these are still big hits.

Shopping for the autism spectrum child requires a flexible attitude and some out-of-the-box-thinking. Here are ten tried-and-true hits for any kid who has sensory needs.

Gift Ideas for the Visual Autism Spectrum Child

ASD kids can be highly visual, meaning some love all things bright, shiny and lit. The types of toys which you may find could give you a seizure, they love. The top five gifts for this type of child include the following.

  • A laser pointer – These are common sold at dollar stores. It is that annoying red light often used to entertain your cat. My son loves this. It has provided hours of entertainment for approximately $2.00.
  • Lighted Spinners – These are usually seen at parade or street events, but are also sold at the Disney store in their favorite characters. These are battery powered, have small LED lights and a small motor.
  • Video games – Most of the visual ASD kids I know really love video games. Ask what system they have and look for games inspired by their favorite characters or programs. Nintendo Wii has "U-Draw" or Scribblenaugts, which allows a child to draw on a tablet and it shows on the TV. This is also a therapy tool, since handwriting skills are typically lacking in these not-so-typical kids. Game Stop and EB Games have one of the largest collections of new and used games.
  • Glow sticks– Glow sticks are also found in dollar stores, and home improvement places like The Home Depot or Lowes. The glow of the stick goes on and on, and when they shake it, the stick makes colors through the air.
  • Crayola Products. Crayola has been a winner each year with the Glow Station or Glow Dome and this year it’s the projector. These are sold in the art and craft sections of most department stores or at hobby stores like AC Moore and Michael's. Art is created in the dark, and comes to life from the light on the special paper. The Glow station doesn’t need batteries except on the wand. The dome utilizes a motor.

Gift Ideas for the Tactile Autism Spectrum Child

This can be tricky depending on the child. Many ASD kids have a need for tactile items to build hand strength. But one kid’s favorite thing may be really off-putting to another, so it's wise to check with the parent beforehand.

  • Squishy play substances – Play dough, putty, modeling clay and the related are all big hits for the tactile child. Children spend hours playing with, shaping or crumbing these .
  • Slime– Nickelodeon created the slime from their program “You can’t do that on Television." You can find this in most toy and department stores for under $10. It comes in a small barrel, even dollar stores have a version called “barrel of oil.” The slimy feature provides stimulation to the hands. Combine this with the laser pointer and the slime that glows and you have toys that are sure to entertain a child who is on the autism spectrum.
  • Moon Sand – Moon sand is magnetized and it sticks to itself. It is sold in most play departments and comes with molds to create animals or words. A word of caution: the colors can never be separated once mixed.
  • Bath foam and bath toys – If you have ever used bath foam or used shaving cream you know it’s pretty relaxing, and many ASD kids, need the help to relax. This is messy play for the bath. Good for encouraging the kid who does not enjoy showers, to stay in a bit longer.
  • Building Toys like Kinex, Legos or Erector Sets (if you can find them) These not only help with hand strength but work with the skill of working with similar objects, taking things apart and hopefully encourage rebuilding.

Many autistic children need heavy sensory input, which means they need stimulation to stop bouncing off of the walls. These children frequently benefit from outdoor play-sets, trampolines, and tunnels. One gift you can give any child with autism is your patience and an open mind. Or a thermal imaging camera if your child is visual and you have an extra $2,000 to spend.

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