Children with autism love toys as much as anyone -- but it can be hard to know just what to buy an autistic child for Christmas, Hannuakah, birthdays, or other celebrations. Of course, the first step is to the child just what they'd like you to purchase. But if you can't get the information you need just by asking, you can check out these options provided by toy distributors.
Because kids with autism are more likely to have mouthing behaviors, you may want to check out the CDC's lead recall site before buying.
Courtesy Toys R Us
Toys R Us, together with Autism Speaks, has created a collection of toys for "differently abled" children which includes a collection specifically for kids with autism-related symptoms. They've also created a useful, downloadable Guide for Buying Toys for Differently Abled Children. They categorize their toys based upon the challenges they address: Auditory, Creativity, Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Language, Self-Esteem, Social Skills, Tactile, Thinking and Visual. Since kids with autism have deficits (and talents) in virtually all of these areas, you're bound to find a toy that suits the child you're buying for -- and fits your budget.
Courtesy Discovery Toys
Together with the Princeton Child Development Institute, Discovery Toys created a list of products appropriate for children with autism. Their list of toys includes toys to develop independent play with some limited instruction; toys that create opportunities for children to talk about their play experience; toys that promote sustained engagement; toys with obvious completion criteria; toys that build skills for cooperative play; and toys that encourage pretend play. All of these are issues that parents of children with autism need to address, so it's likely that a toy in this list will be very welcome indeed.
Courtesy Fat Brain Toys
Fat Brain is a toy vendor that specializes in educational toys. They've created a special collection of toys for children with autism by a special needs advisory committee that includes a number of autism specialists.
Courtesy Lekotek Corporation
AblePlay is an organization which tests and rates toys based upon the needs of children with various disabilities. Check off "autism" on their search engine, and browse through their recommended items.
Courtesy Learning Curve Company
If you know a child with autism, you probably know a Thomas the Tank Engine fan. If so, any of Learning Curve's vast collection of Thomas toys will probably be a welcome treat. This report from the UK's National Autistic Society website
includes research about Thomas and Friends' special relationship to children with autism. as well as links for shopping. Hint: if you're not too picky about whether your gift is brand new, you can find terrific Thomas and Friends bargains on Ebay and similar sites.