A caregiver isn’t just someone
who is restricted to taking care of only an elderly or
ill family member. Caregiving frequently encompasses the
duties of regular parenting, but goes way beyond this
role, particularly when a special needs child is the one
being given the unique care and attention they need.
With all of the
advances in medical science and research, the origins
and cures for several childhood disorders, such as
autism, still continue to elude the medical detectives.
What is definitely known about autism is that it is a
neurological disorder which usually affects the
processing, integrating, and organizing of information
in the brain, causing the child to have problems with
communication, social interaction, functional skills,
and educational performance. To pin point any one, true
cause for autism is still nearly impossible, which leads
one to believe that there may be too many causes to
categorize. Certain outside contributors that may cause
autism include some form of trauma at birth, prenatal
viruses, and possibly some childhood vaccinations. None
of these have been conclusively shown to cause autism,
however, it does appear that the one commonality that
may lend itself to being a cause is anything that may
disturb or hamper the central nervous system of a child,
causing it to develop abnormally.
Since so little
is known about autism, it may be difficult for parents,
friends and relatives to understand what is going on
inside the child’s mind, and what type of toys or
activities would be enjoyable, stimulating, and help to
enhance the abilities and progression of the child. It’s
really no different choosing a toy for an autistic child
than it is for any child, however, here are a few
helpful things to keep in mind:
- Try to find a toy or gift
that will be fairly unbreakable. Selecting toys made
of wood, metal, or heavy plastic.
- For younger children,
obviously get something that doesn’t have any small
pieces that could be ingested, become stuck in their
throat, or hurt other parts of their body.
- Find toys that can be
played with both when the child is wanting to be
alone, or with other people, allowing for social
integration with the child.
- Don’t purchase games that
require a lot of people to play, since autistic
children often prefer to play alone. Games also have
too many small pieces that may be too confusing and
possibly dangerous for the child. However, games
that have large pieces, such as dominoes, may be
appropriate for older children while under
- Purchase toys that are
appropriate for the child’s developmental age, not
necessarily their true, chronological age.
- Learn about the likes and
dislikes of the child. It is even safe to say that
autistic children can be somewhat “obsessive” with
certain colors, patterns, or toys that help them
repeat a certain sound or action over and over, so
it is good to buy toys that will appeal to them for
this purpose as well. Any toys or large-pieced games
that form patterns or lines are great.
- Lego’s for older children
and Duplo’s for younger children are an excellent
gift since the multiple parts can be assembled
(these building systems are different from other
toys or games that just have tons of little pieces
which are not necessarily utilized). Depending upon
the child’s imagination, many autistic children
enjoy creating different types of shapes and
thoroughly enjoy the assembly process.
- Find out what kind of
movies or shows the child likes to watch. Getting
them a video or DVD can be a terrific gift.
- Fixations with clothes or
shoes is also very typical, so buying a pair of
shoes or getting the kind of clothes they like will
also make for good gift giving.
- Items that can be used
indoors and provide exercise are also good gifts,
like a stationary bike (a previously owned one can
- There are many different
type of affordable toy computers on the market that
teach math, reading, spelling, etc. Try to find one
that has multi-sensory components which allow the
child to not only learn, but to be creative as well.
To help you with even more gift
ideas, here’s a list of websites which offer toys, games
that are appropriate for autistic kids: Adapt Net; Auti
Toys; Come Play With Me; Dragonfly Toys (US); Dragonfly
Toys (Canada); Enabling Devices; Honey the Signing Bear;
Science Products; TFH (US) Limited; The Center for
Creative Play; and Thomas the Tank Engine.
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