the best sensory gifts for kids with autism and spd

Have you ever heard that work and play don't mix? Me too. And I don't like it. Especially with kids, work is most effective when it's disguised as play. While not everything is always fun, a lot of therapeutic sensory work can be. Below is my list of ultimate sensory gifts for kids with autism and SPD. I've made sure to describe the therapeutic value of all of the options below, but your child will be hard pressed to realize that their new gift is secretly sensory work. 

BOOKS about autism and spd

Having autism or SPD can be very confusing and isolating when trying to combat the typical challenges of childhood. If your child is a bookworm, try giving them a book that will help them feel less alone and explain what they're going through. 

activity books

Whether you need a gift for a long road trip or a lazy weekend afternoon, these activity books provide value to kids with autism and SPD beyond just being boredom busters. From promoting emotional regulation through doodling, coloring, mindfulness, and writing, to working on visual perception through hidden pictures, these activity books help improve valuable skills.

indoor swings and hammocks

Swinging plays a big role in providing input to the vestibular system. Many kids who feel "unorganized" are able to re-regulate themselves after a good dose of swinging. While some children are reluctant to swing to begin with, it often becomes something they crave over time as they begin to desire the feeling of being regulated. To read more about the benefits of swinging, check out this ILS article.

indoor climbing

Climbing, pushing, and pulling are activities that consist of heavy work. When we do heavy work, our bodies get a better sense of where they are in space. Many kids with sensory issues struggle with body awareness due to deficiencies in their proprioceptive systems. When heavy work activities are incorporated into the day, proprioceptive input is given to the body, which helps increase bodily awareness. To learn more about the benefits of heavy work, check out this article from Understood.

gross motor Tools and games

From a sensory integration perspective, gross motor movements have a number of benefits from increasing balance, developing bilateral movements, refining depth perception and spatial awareness, and strengthening the muscles and core. Getting kids moving in big ways helps the body organize itself and keep its systems in check. The toys below encourage kids to move in different ways to increase balance and get the whole body involved.

fine motor Tools and games

Occupational therapists spend a lot of time working on the handwriting skills of kids with autism and SPD. Precision movements that require good control of the arms, hands, and fingers are challenging for any kid, let alone one with sensory issues. However, these challenges can be lessened with deliberate practice. The toys below are fun ways to encourage kids to keep their hands busy and working.

tactile play

When kids are dealing with tactile sensitivities or defensiveness, getting dirty is a great way to combat it. Exposing kids to new textures and encouraging messy play can help the body tolerate those experiences in the future. Compression and weighted objects can also help decrease tactile sensitivity and defensiveness over time.

visual toys

You can't forget the visual toys when looking for the best sensory toys for kids with autism or sensory issues. Whether it's discerning patterns, or picking out objects in a crazy scene, these toys will help kids develop their visual processing skills.

calm down toys

Regardless of sensory challenges, every child needs tools and toys for calming down. Now, this is a tricky category to make, as the calming needs of kids vary greatly. But, this small array of products may give you some ideas.

subscriptions

Give the gift that keeps on giving. Subscriptions are a great way to continually expose kids to some great therapeutic services.

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About the Author

Diana Fitts is an Occupational Therapist who specializes in sensory processing disorders.