I am building up quite a collection of toys and resources to help with the anxiety which accompanies our autism. They are mainly for my son to try different ways to help him cope but also to take them along to our support groups so that people can get an idea of the products available before deciding on the best one to purchase. There are many different items on the market and it can be a case of trying different things until finding one that suits. It maybe the case that you don't need to venture far from some household favourites to help such as blu tack and paperclips, these are great for squeezing like a stress ball or a lot of our young people get a lot of satisfaction from linking lots of paperclips together to make a chain. So why do we need these toys?
Stimming is also referred to as self-stimulatory behaviour or self stimulation and involves the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects. It is common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but mostly in people with autistic spectrum disorders. Stimming can include hand flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases. This is a process which someone on the spectrum will use to try and regulate any anxiety or stress from certain situations within their environment. It has a calming effect and shouldn't be discouraged.
My son tends to repeat phrases, quotes from films and tv over and over. I can't tell you how many times I have had to update my list of favourite Disney Pixar films, the characters, villains and my favourite tank engine. We all get plenty of reminders for the release of up and coming films and dvd's in fact I'm thinking of doing away with a diary as he is an actual walking talking TV guide and personal organiser. We do have to have the calendar on the wall in the kitchen, it gets checked on a regular basis and you are given your reminder of any such event way before any Google Apple or Microsoft app can remind you. It's very useful but can also be frustrating to hear the same information relayed over and over again, we have got used to it though over the years and if it makes him feel at ease then I will listen as long as I can. It does make me chuckle though as just lately he has started to be aware he is repeating things and actually says 'have I said that before?' 'So sorry mum'. I have told him to text me a reminder which has made things a little easier on the ears, he sends me a text and then it seems to finalise that process of information for him.....for a little while anyway.
Tom is also very tactile and has to touch and feel all the time. When he was younger I can't tell you how many times I had to apologise to teaching assistants for his touchy feely moments and the smelling of hair which seems to have stopped now. He could always tell what perfume or shampoo someone used, it was his way of getting to know someone and becoming familiar rather than the use of massive conversation. It's almost as if he built a persons profile by their smell, feel and favourite tank engine. Now he is older though, he has to control some aspects of touching to prevent it being inappropriate and has had to learn to respect peoples personal space. The use of these toys do help, the stress ball and stretchy man are popular as he can apply a lot of pressure to them. He will sometimes take hold of your hand and press hard or he used to push his head and nose against your own so receiving some pressure is obviously a big sensory need for him.
Most of these toys and resources are inexpensive so it is possible to experiment and find one that works. The fidget cube is a relatively new product. it is small enough to hold in the hand and has different features on it such as a switch on one side, rolling wheels, buttons and a smooth side. It can be a bit noisey but even I find this a nice distraction. The twist and lock blocks are good, the small wooden blocks can be shifted into a different formation, another easy to hold item. The fiddle kit I purchased came with a stress ball, bendy man and a tangle toy. I remember being given one of these tangle toys when I gave up smoking, it is very good to just twist and turn in different directions and keep those hands busy. Did it stop me smoking? No not really but I have stopped since using other methods. I do like this one though. The slinky was added from a while back and it is also a good one to stretch out and slip through the hands but just be careful, it can get tangled, but I must admit it did provide some amusement getting it back to it's slinky form.
The zippy cuddly monster in my photo is a Worry Eater. This, I think is just a brilliant resource. It would suit a younger child maybe but what happens is, if a child is worried or anxious about something, it could be that they have had a bad dream or they may be apprehensive about a visit to the dentist, they write down their worry and pop I into the monsters mouth, zip it up and away that worry goes. You do your magic (a bit like tooth fairy duty) and remove the worry so that when the child checks again, it's all gone! Brilliant idea. I actually use it at the moment to stop me ranting about absolutely nothing on social media, you know when as an adult you don't feel you are having a good people day? A bit of road rage, write it down pop it in the monster........give it to another adult or I pass it to my 14 year old and he's glad to empty it rather than having a moody mother. So you see, these resources can be used by all the family.
I purchased my items on Amazon www.amazon.co.uk
prices will vary as there are many different products available here but I paid:
for The Worry Eater £11.73
Fidget Cube £6.98
Tobar Twist and Lock Blocks £1.62
Fiddle Kit £7.49
Other websites who specialise in toys and resources for people with autism are:
The following information is about Behaviour regarding Autism and is taken from the National Autistic Society website. it is really quite informative.
I hope that helps a little bit but if you do come to any of the NAS Derby & District support groups I will bring some items along for you to have a look at and try. I will gradually add more to my 'museum' as my youngest son calls it so do come along and take a look, oh and grab a brew and biscuit as well. Our details can be found on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/NASDerbyBranch/
or you can email the branch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Take care for now and thank you so much for reading. Come back tomorrow for my round up of TV for the week on Pass the Remote Sunday.
Every Saturday will be about Autism, family and life.