Unlocking fun for all: embracing neurodiversity and inclusion for children through appropriate toys

Coco Village has always prided itself on being a company that respects the individuality of every human being.
The company wants to include everyone and show this in its brand image, which is why we make toys for children that are not specific to any gender.
But this delicate and necessary work doesn't stop there, because inclusivity is for everyone.
Did you know that regular toys are not always suitable for neuroatypical children, especially those with autism?
Unlocking fun for all: embracing neurodiversity and inclusion for children through appropriate toys

What Is Autism?

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication, and behavior. It is characterized by a range of challenges and differences in skills, abilities, and strenghts.
It is often diagnosed in early childhood, and it is a lifelong condition. Early intervention, therapy, and support can greatly help individuals with autism in developing their skills, communication, and overall well-being.
Autism manifests differently in each individual, with varying degrees of severity and a wide range of symptoms. Nevertheless, there are some common characteristics and challenges associated with autism, such as social difficulties, communication differences, repetitive behaviors, sensory sensitivities, special interests and intense focus, routine and predictability.
Autism is defined as a spectrum disorder, meaning that manifestation of symptoms can vary widely among individuals. This emphasizes the uniqueness of each autistic person, including their strengths, challenges, and special needs.

Challenges In Play

Autistic children may face some challenges when playing with regular toys due to their unique sensory, communication, and social needs. Here are some issues they may encounter.
Sensory overwhelm:
Many regular toys can be overwhelming for autistic children due to loud noises or bright lights and colors. Children with sensory sensitivities may find it difficult to engage with toys that overstimulate their senses.
Fine motor difficulties:
Some autistic children encounter fine motor challenges, making it difficult for them to manipulate small or intricate parts of regular toys. This can make activities such as building things from small pieces or playing with regular puzzles difficult, at least at first.

Lack of engagement or interest:

Autistic children sometimes have specific preferences, which are not met by regular toys. If a toy does not align with their personal interests or respect their sensory sensibilities; they may have difficulties engaging with it.

Difficulty with imagination and social play:

Children will generally have a natural facility for pretend play with ordinary toys, using their imagination to create narratives and interact with others. In contrast, neuro-atypical children may have difficulty playing imaginatively and understanding the social dynamics involved in playing with others.
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Communication challenges:
Many regular toys rely on verbal language for instructions or interaction. This can pose as a challenge for autistic children who have difficulties with language and communication. They may require alternative communication methods or visual aids to understand and engage with toys effectively.
To address these issues, it may be helpful to consider opting for more appropriate toys, which cater the specifics needs and preferences of autistic children. Seeking out toys designed for sensory, motor, and social engagement can greatly enhance they play experiences.

What Are Some Appropriate Toys for Autistic Kids?

There are several appropriate toy options for autistic kids that can aid in their development and engagement.
Sensory toys that engage the senses, such as textured or squishy toys, can help stimulate sensory processing in autistic children.
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Small toys such as textured balls can also provide tactile stimulation and therefore promote focus and concentration.
Puzzles and stackable toys can also help develop problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills.
Pretend play sets, such as kitchen or doctor sets, can promote social interaction, imagination, and communication skills.
Remember, the specific needs of each autistic child may vary. It’s important to observe their preferences and consult with their caregivers or therapists for personalized toy recommendations.

Engaging in Activities to Build a Strong Bond with Your Autistic Child

Engaging in activities with an autistic child requires understanding their unique needs, preferences, and abilities. Parents can do activities with their autistic child to make it a positive experience.
Start by creating a structured and predictable routine.
Autistic children often thrive in structured environments. By establishing a play routine, you will provide a sense of security and predictability for your child.
Follow their interests!
Observe your child's interests and engage in activities related to those interests. If your child is fascinated by dinosaurs, for example, you can plan activities that involve reading about dinosaurs, visiting a natural history museum, or playing with dinosaur toys.
Many autistic children benefit from visual aids such as visual schedules, charts, or social stories. These can help them understand and participate in activities.
Use visual supports to set expectations, communicate instructions, and provide structure.
Incorporate sensory activities, as it can have a calming and stimulating effect on autistic children.
Engage in activities that involve their senses, such as playing with sensory toys, exploring different textures and materials, or engaging in activities like swinging or bouncing on a therapy ball.

Offer choices: autistic children can have difficulty with decision-making.

Offer them choices within activities to give them a sense of control and autonomy. For example, if you're planning a pretend play activity, present two or three options for them to choose from.

Utilize visual and social cues to enhance involvement.

For example, you can employ actions, indicating, exemplifying, or visual supports to show how a task should be performed. Social skills can be greatly improved through pretend play.
Practice patience and be flexible.
Be prepared for potential challenges, as every autistic child is unique and may have specific sensitivities or difficulties. Be patient, adaptable, and willing to try different approaches or modify activities to suit your child's needs.
Remember, every autistic child is different, so it's important to understand your child's individual preferences and strengths. Be open to learning from them, and embrace activities that foster their development, happiness, and engagement.
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Coco Village makes toys with soft colors, and simple yet well-thought-out designs. They help children grow through play and prevent overwhelming their senses.
While this is great for any child, it is also suitable for neuroatypical children, like those with autism, for whom regular toys may not always be appropriate.
If you have a child who is neurologically or psychologically different, bear in mind that your understanding, tolerance, and affection will always be essential. Give your child the right toys and a safe place to learn and play.
Participate in activities and engage with them during play time to facilitate their learning. Provided with the right tools and ressources, autistic children will be able to learn, have fun and thrive throughout their lives.
Their uniqueness is also a beautiful strength, and they have a lot to teach us! You might learn a lot about you too!
* This article was written by Coco Village and does not replace the advice of an appropriate specialist.

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