Boosting Cognitive Development in Autism: The Role of Sensory Toys

Boosting Cognitive Development in Autism: The Role of Sensory Toys

Boosting Cognitive Development in Autism: The Role of Sensory Toys

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects approximately 1 in 54 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children with ASD often experience difficulties with communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. They may also have sensory processing issues, which means they may experience heightened sensitivity or under-responsiveness to certain stimuli such as light, noise, touch, or smell. 


Sensory toys are designed to stimulate the senses and provide a supportive and calming environment for children with ASD. They can help improve their communication and social skills, increase their focus and attention, and reduce anxiety. In this blog post, we will discuss how sensory toys facilitate learning for children with autism.

One type of sensory toy that is gaining popularity is weighted blankets. These blankets are filled with weighted materials that create deep pressure on the body, which can help children with ASD relax and self-regulate. According to research, weighted blankets can also improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety levels in children with Autism (Wietecha, 2016).

Another type of sensory toy that has recently been discovered to aid in cognitive development is music therapy. Music therapy has been found to improve communication and socialization in children with Autism, as well as increase attention span and language development (Geretsegger et al., 2017). Musical instruments such as drums, tambourines, and xylophones can provide children with a sense of rhythm and control, which can translate into improved motor skills.

Fidget toys have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in schools. Fidget toys help children with Autism focus and improve attention span. These toys range from stress balls to fidget spinners, and they can be used to relieve anxiety and increase alertness. These benefits allow a child to focus on exploring and learning from our world and the environment around us.

Another sensory tool that can assist with sensory processing difficulties is a sensory bag. Sensory bags can contain a variety of objects and materials, such as beads, sand, and water. Children can squeeze, push, pinch, and hold the bag to feel different textures and pressure on their hands. Sensory bags are easy to assemble and can be customized to suit a specific child’s needs.

Sensory swings can also assist children with ASD. Swinging can provide a calming and relaxing effect via rhythmic movement. The gentle repetitive movement can help children with sensory processing difficulties regulate their senses. For example, some children with autism may have increased anxiety levels - something that can be regulated to some extent by the rhythmic swinging affect of sensory swings. A benefit of sensory swings is that they can be used both indoors and outdoors, creating a variety of different environments that can be explored.

Another sensory toy that can assist in developing cognitive skills is magnetic blocks. Magnetic blocks can help with problem-solving, spatial awareness, and creativity. Children can build structures and designs using the blocks, which can improve visual-spatial skills and hand-eye coordination while also fostering imagination and creativity. Magnetic blocks are a popular sensory toy for children with Autism, as they provide a calming effect and are easy to manipulate. 

Bubble tubes or sensory bubble walls can also be used to promote relaxation and sensory processing. Bubble tubes provide visual stimulation and can aid in calming children with sensory processing difficulties. Research has shown that sensory bubble tubes can help reduce distress in pediatric patients, including those with Autism.

Visual aids, such as light boxes or LED light panels, can also assist children with Autism in developing cognitive skills. Light boxes can promote attention to detail, visual organization, and fine motor skills. The vibrancy and brightness of LED light panels can improve visual stimulation and perception. These visual aids can be used in therapy sessions or at home, in a calming and peaceful environment. Keep in mind that different sensory techniques are varied for each child - not all children will benefit from bright lights.

Sensory balls are another popular toy for children with Autism. These toys can provide a tactile experience and improve sensory-motor development by allowing a child to choose how they play. Sensory balls can be used for a range of activities, such as squeezing, simply holding/exploring, tossing, and throwing. They are easy to manipulate and can be used to reduce anxiety and stress. 

Sensory tents or dens can also be used as comforting spaces for children with Autism. These tents can provide a quiet and peaceful environment for children to relax and self-regulate. Sensory tents can be set up in a child’s bedroom or classroom, and they can be customized with sensory toys and materials.

In conclusion, sensory toys and tools can play a significant role in enhancing cognitive development in children with Autism. Sensory toys provide the necessary stimulation and comfort that children with ASD need. These toys are designed to manage sensory processing difficulties and create a calming and soothing environment. By utilizing sensory play in a variety of different ways specific for each child, we can help all children reach a higher cognitive potential and increase their ability of thriving in our world today.

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