How Sensory Toys Reduce Anxiety in Children with Special Needs

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There are many children all around the world, who are diagnosed with special needs conditions like Autism, sensory processing disorder, and ADD. As a parent, guardian, or teacher, it’s our job to help them improve their learning and overcome these challenges. Children with special needs may have a harder time with sensory stimulation, that’s where sensory toys come in.  

What Are Sensory Toys and How Do They Work? 

A sensory toy is a tool that is mainly designed to stimulate one or more of a person’s senses. The toys capture their attention, whether visual or tactile, making these toys a powerful reinforcer of applied behavioral analysis.

How Sensory Toys Lower Anxiety in Children with Special Needs

  • Sensory toys can calm a person experiencing overstimulation, by providing something external to focus on. Colours, sounds, and intriguing textures attract attention away from any anguish.
  • Toys like fidget toys can help calm anxiety by providing an outlet for energy. Remember when fidget spinners were all the rave?
  • Sensory toys provide proprioceptive input, which provides a sense of body awareness and detects/controls force and pressure.

How to Choose The Best Toy 

Assess What Kind of Activities Your Child Seeks, Avoids or Needs Help With

Observe if your child likes calming activities, like escaping to a quiet space, or do they cover their ears during loud noises? If you notice this behavior in your child, it’s important to remember the impact this may have transitioning to activities in school. 

Pinpoint the Main Sensory System

There are seven sensory systems, and each is independent. There is a lot of overlap, and they all work together. When one is affected, it’s common for others to be. These sensory systems include:

  • Proprioception
  • Vestibular
  • Tactile
  • Vision
  • Hearing 
  • Smell
  • Taste 

Identify any sensory systems that you think need more attention, look for any patterns. If you notice one or two sensory systems continually affecting your child, you should look for toys that address that sensory system.

If your child has a few seeking or avoiding activities that need help, then proprioception is your go-to.

Identify the Timing and Environment

From here, identify if any behaviors happen at certain times or in a particular environment.

If you realise your child avoids or seeks a particular sensory input at a certain time or specific environment, take note of it and whether you feel your child requires a tool for a particular environment.    

Put it All Together 

At this point, you should have identified the sensory activity your child seeks or avoids, and the sensory system you think they are trying to target. The time of day or environment that your child seeks or avoids, if any.

Choose the tool that suits your needs best.    

The Best Toys Currently on the Market

  1. Rainbow Water Beads
  2. Indoor Therapy Swing
  3. Novelty Expandable Ball
  4. Liquid Motion Bubbler
  5. Weighted Lap Pads
  6. Spike, the Fine Motor Hedgehog
  7. Sensory Buckle Pillow
  8. Aqua Magic Doodle Mat
  9. Kinetic Sand
  10. Dynamic Movement Sensory Body Sox

How We Can Help

If you’re a parent, caregiver or guardian to a child with special needs, you may find sensory toys an effective tool to help with overstimulation and lower anxiety.

To learn more about working better with patients on the spectrum or with special needs, sign up for my course or contact us today. I will go over everything you need to know to help make your interactions smoother and more successful.

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