I am often asked by families and professionals online, and at my learning center here in Paris, what kinds of toys and tools they can buy for children with autism to help them progress in their learning goals.
The toys you choose to buy will depend on your child’s interests and their specific learning goals, however, these recommendations will be good options for most children with autism, particularly if they fall into each category.
Sensory Communication Resource
What is a visual schedule and how can it help your child?
This visual schedule will show your child the exact order of activities for a day.
By showing the day’s activities step by step, visual schedules can help reduce frustration and increase communication at home.
Pre-made visual schedules
This visual schedule makes it easy to show your child each step necessary to get ready for the day. You can point to each step or guide your child to complete each step and then remove the image once the task is completed.
I love using visual reward charts at my center. They are really useful at home too. You can choose a “reward” (or “reinforcer”) for your child or you can ask your child to choose the “reward”. Your child needs to complete a certain number of steps before (1-5) before he or she has access to the desired activity or toy.
Bathroom routines can be difficult to learn and these visual schedules can help. Children with autism tend to learn more easily if they have visual prompts to help them follow steps and instructions. You can use the entire pack of visual schedules or take them apart and hang them up one by one in the bathroom.
Tools to make your own
This little camera is really practical for creating your own visual schedules (as well as a variety of other fun and educational projects with your child).
You can use it to create your own visual schedules. Just snap a photo of each of your child’s activities during the day, print them out, laminate them and hang them in the order that your child will be doing them each day. If you are creating your own visual schedules, you can include photos of your child’s favorite foods, pictures of particular people (such as your child’s speech therapist and/or teacher) and places (such as home, school, your local grocery store and the library). Creating your own custom visual schedules gives you more flexibility. You also have the added bonus of using real photos, rather than illustrations, which makes it more concrete and therefore easier for your child to understand.
I love using these mini photo magnets in the kitchen of my learning center. This would work for in your home too. You can take photos of the steps of a meal, or your child’s favorite foods, and stick them to the fridge. Your child will know that he or she has to set the table, eat and then clean up and can even use the photos to ask for particular foods depending on the situation.
Use your photos to make a visual schedule
This is probably the tool that I use the most at my learning center. I use it to make all kinds of learning materials for the kids. You can use it to laminate your visual schedule photos to give them extra durability and to make them waterproof (particularly useful if you are using them in the kitchen!).
For behavior management
A lot of children with autism have sensory-seeking behaviours, including mouthing behaviors. If this is the case with your little one, chewy tubes can really help reduce this kind of behavior.
We use digital timers at my center to teach the passage of time and to show the children that we are going to do the activity for a certain amount of time. There are many ways that using a digital timer in your program can increase productivity and learning, while decreasing frustration.
For the child who is learning to write
This acrylic writing slope provides very useful support for children who are learning to write, particularly for children who have difficult with fine motor skills and need extra support. It’s my favorite tool for teaching writing.
For sensory play
Playdough is a valuable sensory tool in so many different activities, including play dough mats
For the child who needs to build fine motor skills
For the child who is learning to tell time
For creative play
I love these particular hand puppets because they are really well made and durable. This is so important as often children with autism tend to be rough on their toys and you want to make sure that you are purchasing toys that will last for a while.
We have included affiliate links for your convenience. You can read our disclosure here.
Learn to create a Progress Nook for your child at home in 7 days
Receive 7 emails - 1 email each day - for FREE that will teach you exactly what to do, then receive emails once per week with fun learning activities for your child