Fidget toys and how they can be useful for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Having something to fidget with is a great tool to help children with autism or ADHD manage daily stress, focus, absorb more information, self-regulate, and keep calm. It can help to reduce stress and anxiety when children are faced with new situations.

Fidget toys have been proven to work well with people of all ages who struggle with anger, anxiety or focus.

Children with autism and sensory issues have problems processing sensory information and have a need to avoid some stimuli and actively seek others. I have discussed this in more detail in this post. Fidget toys and items help to regulate the child’s sensory system.

Different toys or items will work better for different children depending on their sensory issues. Some toys are tactile or squishy, some make noises, some are designed to distract the child so they can concentrate (yes you read that right, it really does work!)

Often children with autism have high levels of anxiety. This anxiety makes it difficult for them to focus because their brains are too full of worries. To have something to touch, chew or smell can help to calm them by distracting their brains away from the worries and make concentrating easier.

Some teachers at school may feel that fidget toys are distracting for children. You may need to explain that they are distracting but not from the lesson. They distract the child from their stress, sensory needs and anxiety and distracting from this can help the child concentrate on the lesson.

The best thing about fidget toys is they are relatively inexpensive and therefore you can try a few to find out which your child responds best to.  Anything can work from a small toy car to a stress ball. Here are five ideas you could try which my son has found useful. Please remember to take into account your child’s age and stage of development when choosing fidget toys to make sure they are safe.


Fidget spinners

It is useful to know that a lot of schools have unfortunately banned these due to their popularity amongst all children so it may be best to check before sending your child to school with one. These great toys spin and spin and make a very quiet soothing sound. They are not suitable for small children due to containing small parts and ball bearings.


Fidget cubes

These tiny cubes are brilliant! They have different activities like switches and buttons on each surface of the cube to keep hands occupied.


Blue tac

Widely available in school, a piece of blue tac to fiddle with can help to ease anxiety and improve concentration.



Stress balls and toys

Toys you can squeeze, pull around, manipulate and easily hold are great tools for concentration and stress relief.


Tangles

These plastic and highly manipulative toys come in all sorts of colours and textures and can be really good to fiddle with.

Other tips

Children that need oral stimulation

For children that need oral stimulation, having something to chew can be a great tool. There are a range of relatively inexpensive and safe chew toys available online. For teenagers, chewing gum could be an alternative.


Children that need to touch

Some children find feeling different fabric or textures comforting. There are great taggy blankets widely available in baby shops or online which can be good. Also, for older children, sewing a piece of their favourite fabric into their pockets is a good idea.



Children that need to move around.

For some children that need the stimulation from moving around having something like a gym ball or special tactile cushion to sit on may help them concentrate.


Children with sound needs

For children that find noise difficult then ear defenders or ear plugs can help. For others that seek noise, listening to music or white noise could help them to concentrate.


I hope you find something which suits your child! If you have any other great ideas that have worked for you then please share them in the comments!



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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Yeah I had gotten several for both of my boys but they got so popular that every kid was bringing them into school and every kid was playing with them to the point of distraction from the lessons they were being taught so the schools in my town and several other towns banned them. Children are no longer allowed to bring them to school. It’s a shame because they were really helpful but when a toy gets so popular that ALL kids are using them and bringing them to school, it does become a distraction. It was insanely popular around here for awhile until he schools banned them.

    1. It is the same here, its quite sad really because they can really help some kids concentrate x

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