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Toys and interactive play are incredibly beneficial for a child or adolescent with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Playing with certain toys and engaging with others are great ways to help foster your child’s cognitive, as well as social and emotional development. With the holidays around the corner, what are some of the best toys or gifts you could give to a child with ASD?

Sensory Engaging

Many children with ASD experience something referred to as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  In many cases, bright flashing lights or loud noises may unsettle a child with ASD. While it can be overwhelming to introduce different senses, it’s essential to your child’s future development to implement different sounds, tastes, textures, smells, and sights; this not only helps them process the different senses but also decreases anxiety and stress.  A great way to do this is using tactile and sensory engaging toys. “Using sensory toys that the child is comfortable with as a way to introduce new stimuli as well as a “safe object” during times of stress can be incredibly helpful during therapy. Sensory toys “may help children with autism focus, calm down in stressful situations, or relax.”  The use of sensory toys ultimately decreases your child’s fear and anxiety by helping them get used to their senses through natural play.

Toys that Foster Shared Play

Shared play is a great way to help develop your child’s social and emotional skills.  Children with ASD often experience difficulty in interacting with others, or in general social situations.  You can gradually introduce shared play using toys that will promote your child interacting with others, such as puzzles, dolls, building blocks or Legos, and other games that require taking turns.  Additionally, it’s helpful to introduce play dates gradually, to help your child become more comfortable playing with peers.

Special Interests

Children with ASD often have special interests, or a hobby they focus on intensely.  Whether their interests are trains, cars, dolls, or books, you’ll want to find items that foster these interests and keep them engaged.  This can help your child develop an understanding of what they like, while also creating a safe space for play that they control. Additionally, special interests can help an individual with ASD to better manage stress and different life changes by becoming a focal point during stressful situations.