When making purchasing decisions about toys and games for autistic children, it is good to keep in mind some key behaviors of autistic children that might make certain toys suitable or unsuitable. These behaviors include
- Repetitive behavior, such as flapping her hands, making the same sounds repeatedly, rolling her head, or rocking her body
- Compulsively arranging things in specific ways
- Doing the same things over and over and not wanting to change these behaviors when prompted. This can take the form of ritualistic behavior.
- Behavior that is very narrow in scope or interest.
- Prone to outbursts that may be violent
The autistic child in your life won’t manifest all these behaviors but will often manifest one or more of them. I elaborate more about each one below:
Children with autism often repeat the same type of action over and over, such as flapping their arms or making certain sounds. Some of these behaviors, such as making an unnatural sound over and over, will be obvious to notice, but others may be less obvious if you don’t pay close attention. As the autistic child in your life grows older, he or she may start to recognize some of these repetitive behaviors as unacceptable or outside the norm, at which point they may be replaced with more “socially acceptable” behaviors. You might want to be wary of buying toys and games that encourage or help continue undesirable repetitive behaviors. At the very least, you should be aware about whether such repetitive behavior with the toy may cause harm to the child or his or her playmates.
Compulsively Arranging Things in Certain Ways
Autistic children may show behavior that resembles obsessive compulsive disorder in terms of washing their hands repeatedly or arranging or counting objects over and over again in a specific way. Such behavior in moderation may promote intellectual and motor skill development. However if the behavior is repeated to an unhealthy degree you might want to replace the toys (e.g., toy blocks) with other types of toys.
Doing the Same Things Over and Over
Children with autism often want to watch the same shows or play the same games over and over. As mentioned before, this type of behavior can be detrimental when taken to excess so you should keep a close eye on such behavior when deciding what type of toys or games to give them.
Behavior that is very narrow in scope or interest
Tied to some of the other characteristics mentioned before, the key is to encourage their interests but not to let them be consumed by them so they develop other important skills as well.
Prone to outbursts that may be violent
Some autistics may be prone to tantrums and violent outbursts. They key is to not let them have toys that might be easily used to hurt others, such as nerf guns or very hard objects.