As National Autism Awareness month is recognized in the month of April, we take a look at one of the interesting aspects of treating symptoms in autistic children and adults: fidgeting. While there is no cure for autism, there are ways to alleviate some of the symptoms – in particular, sensory issues.
People with autism experience unique sensory issues. Sometimes they are overly sensitive to stimuli – like light, noise, and even smells. Oftentimes, behavior as a result of this can be interpreted as “acting out” or “misbehaving.” However, at other times, their system craves stimuli. Enter fidget toys.
Autism comes with a high level of anxiety, and these specialized toys have made great strides in alleviating angst and fear. Fidget toys actually help regulate the sensory system in children and even adults.
“Their sensory system accepts input differently, so these items can help channel inappropriate behavior into appropriate behavior,” says Tricia Weger, MS/CCC-SLP, a speech pathologist who works with a wide range of special-needs children. “It helps them transfer the movement they desire and thus gives them the input and stimulation they need.” Weger adds that fidgeting and using special products made for fidgeting also can be very calming to both children and adults.
Most autistic kids with sensory issues respond to things in their hands that they can play with quietly (Asperger’s Syndrome Newsletter, Vo. 107), so fidget toys naturally are a simple solution. Diana Brown, of Houston, has a unique appreciation for fidget toys. Her son, Clint – was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Twelve years later, she has been relying on fidget toys and changes them periodically to provide a change in stimuli. “I have an arsenal of toys that I rotate to give him some variation,” she says. “They have helped both of us tremendously.”