Unlocking Joy: 10 Thoughtful Educational Gifts for Autistic ChildrenDecember 20, 2023
The holiday season is approaching fast, and the spirit of giving and receiving is in the air. While the quest for the perfect gift is universal, it becomes especially meaningful when considering the unique needs and interests of children with autism. In this comprehensive post, we delve into a curated list of educational gifts that draw from a deep understanding of diverse learning styles and preferences. From sensory toys to interactive learning apps, join us as we discover the power of thoughtful gifts in creating engaging learning experiences for autistic children—during the holiday season and beyond.
Sensory Toys for Kids with Autism
Sensory toys provide stimulation, help children focus and pay attention, and encourage movement. Since there are many different types of sensory toys available, it’s important to choose ones that are appropriate for your child’s individual needs. For example, in addition to age, developmental level, and interests, be sure to also consider sensory-specific needs such as hypersensitivity to certain stimuli, or hyposensitivity. Here are some of our favorite sensory toys for autistic kids.
1. Teeter Popper | Balance Board
Toys that promote coordination help autistic children develop gross motor skills. They can also be used to encourage children to get up and move around. Teeter Popper does both! Kids stand, sit, wobble and roll to giggle-tastic pop-pop-popping sounds as they play and attempt new maneuvers.
2. Bestamtoy | Wooden Stacking Rocks
Unlike classic cubed building blocks, Bestamty’s 36-piece set of Montessori-style wooden stacking rocks are polyhedrons. Each rock is a different size, color, and weight, making stacking and balancing more challenging and creative. The endless combination stimulates a variety of skills, including: fine motor skills, visual-spatial skills, and logical thinking through color recognition.
3. eFiDGET | Light-up Electronic Fidget Toy
This new spin on a fidget toy offers a fun way to develop focus while relieving stress. In Fidget Mode, kids rotate the eFiDGET in their hands until it lights up all sides the same color, then vibrates and starts over. In Chill Mode, patterns of light display with synced-up tones for soothing stress relief. In addition to sight and sound, eFiDGET engages with a pleasing texture and haptic feedback. Two hours of play on a single battery charge make it a great on-the-go toy.
4. DIY Sensory Bottle Lab | Sensory Box
One of the best things about sensory bottles for kids with autism is the creative process of putting them together. This DIY sensory bottle box comes with a variety of high-quality, tactile materials to assemble beautiful bottles, and comes with an easy-to-follow guide to kick-start creative ideas. Part science-experiment, part sensory magic, it delivers hours of educational fun!
5. Dino-Sensory Exploration | Sensory Box
There were so many great sensory boxes to choose from in this collection that we couldn’t limit ourselves to recommending just one. This box offers a range of sensory and educational benefits: Play sand and smooth stones to offer a rich tactile experience; Wooden scoops, paint brushes, and markers to engage fine motors skills; A magnifying glass to encourage detailed exploration for cognitive development; And a fun assortment of dinosaurs, of course! All these set the scene to support calm, focused sensory play that is perfect for young dino lovers.
Educational Apps to Support Autistic Children
Educational apps can be a fantastic way for kids with autism to learn new skills and concepts. There are many different educational apps available, each with its own unique set of features and benefits. With so many different options to choose from, you’re sure to find an app that meets your child’s individual needs and interests. These are some of the crowd favorites, each with millions of downloads.
6. Speech Blubs | Speech Therapy App
If a speech therapy app doesn’t sound like a fun gift for your child, that’s because you haven’t tried Speech Blubs. Using voice-controlled and video technology to develop speech articulation, Speech Blubs develops cognitive and communication skills for kids ages 1-8, with or without speech difficulties. Kids learn quickly by seeing and hearing other children model the sounds, and also by recording themselves to compare their own articulation. Fast progress is enough to keep them motivated, but Speech Blubs also includes a reward system of stickers. The app has 1500+ exercises, games, and activities to help kids learn new words every day.
7. Endless Reader | Reading App
This innovative tool introduces “sight words,” which are the most frequently used words found in school, library, and children’s books. Mastering these words by sight is crucial for developing reading fluency. Sight words pose a unique challenge for young readers as they often have unconventional spellings, cannot be sounded out using phonics, and may not be easily represented with pictures. With the delightful Endless monsters as their companions, children will embark on an exciting journey to learn sight words and understand their context and usage. Each word comes to life through interactive word puzzles, where letters animate and form the word, followed by sentence puzzles where words transform into what they describe. Imagine seeing the word “dog” as a barking dog or watching the word “up” reach for the sky! Through these engaging activities, children will have a blast while building their sight-word recognition skills and expanding their reading abilities.
8. Toca Boca | Immersive Play App
The Toca Life World app is a great way for children with autism to learn about the world around them. With 90 locations to explore and 500 characters to play with, Toca offers a variety of interactive games and activities that allow children to explore and create different environments and learn about different objects. From hospitals, to farms, hair salons, plant laboratories, and even sushi restaurants, there’s an environment to match every interest. Ten years and hundreds of millions of downloads after its initial launch, Toca’s founder is still committed to creating games rooted in play. “Our focus is never on winning, or doing something ‘right’, we provide a playground that only really comes alive when kids bring their magic along.”
9. The Reason I Jump | Books about Autism
There are many books on autism that provide insight into the experiences of others on the spectrum, and can help kids feel understood and supported. The Reason I Jump stands out as remarkable because of its genuine and heartfelt candor. Written by 13-year-old Naoki Higashida, a charming and precocious 13-year-old boy with autism, this insightful memoir offers rare insight into a first-person perspective of living with autism. Naoki bravely asks and answers questions that often remain unasked. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) Read it for yourself; gift it to older children; keep it on your bookshelf for years to come.
10. AngelSense Assistive Technology | Safety Solution
AngelSense is a life-changing device for parents of kids with autism—it’s all about giving your loved one the gift of safety while looking out for their well-being and developing greater independence. This dedicated assistive technology addresses the unique safety concerns and needs that come with autism at all ages and stages, from young kids to young adults. Using advanced and patented GPS tracking, AngelSense doesn’t just tell you where your children are; it delivers proactive alerts that give you a heads up if there’s any potential danger or unusual behavior. There’s even a speakerphone that’s always ready to connect you with your child, and a single-tap SOS button for when they need to get in touch ASAP. AngelSense is everything you wish a smartphone and GPS tracker could reliably offer and guarantee for autistic kids, with built-in sensory sensitivity to boot.