There are varying degrees and levels of development for all children, and that does not exclude children with disabilities such as autism. For autistic children, though, it is much more important to match the right toys to their level of development. Autistic children’s development is more closely tied to their toys and their ability to interact with them than other children, and so the toys become a crucial part of their early years. For low functioning autistic children, toys which require skills they have not yet developed will not help them to further grow and develop, and they may even contribute to stunting their development.
Autistic children are often diagnosed as having a low functioning autism at different ages based on how well they do on various intelligence tests and the degree of their displayed symptoms. Now, what this means for the parents of children with a low functioning autistic child is that they have to pay closer attention to that child while he or she is playing, and they also have to keep an eye out for particular behaviors while they are playing. Many of those behaviors include:
- An extremely combative attitude
- Rash emotions or a quick temper
- Avoiding eye contact with those around them
- Inability to function without a great amount of assistance from others
- Inability to form logical thoughts and articulate those thoughts
- Inability to understand or comprehend language when being spoken to
- Inability to communicate without using words (or an inability to do either one)
- Preferring to be alone most of the time
- Lacking physical coordination (running or walking normally)
- Having a strong sensitivity or an extreme lack of sensitivity to sensory stimulation (lights, touches, tastes, smells, and sounds)
- Displaying a desire to self injure
- Falling far behind other children in their age groups academically or compared to the behaviors listed above
If some or most of these symptoms and behaviors are present in a child with low functioning autism, choosing the proper toy can be difficult. Toys for these low functioning children must not have any safety hazards and they must be incredibly easy to comprehend. The autism toys for these children are crucial to their ability to develop at a pace which is right for them, and so the selection of those toys then becomes crucial, as well.
Many children with low functioning autism can become easily frustrated and angry. Because of these mood swings and potential for emotional extremes, toys which are safe to play with and cannot be used to injure themselves or others are the best fit. This means trying to avoid toys which shoot things or toys which very hard or heavy pieces. These children often prefer to play alone due to their inability to effectively communicate with others, but interacting with others is also good for their development. So, a good choice would a toy the child can play with on his or her own and spend time figuring out, but which can also be used to play with others. This can be a good transition to learning how to play with others.
For specific toy suggestions, it may be best to consider toys normally meant for babies or toddlers, since these children will have similar abilities. Simple puzzles with different colors are a good choice, as the child can easily figure them out and repeat the pattern needed to finish the puzzle. Soft balls are good for developing motor skills, and building blocks without hard, sharp, or heavy pieces are also good for creative and cognitive development.