-When you find something that works, double down on it!
-Every time you find something that doesn’t work, you’re a step closer to finding something that does work!
As a SN parent, I am constantly trying to stay ahead and prepared for things our little human is “in to.” Some things work wonders & others are busts. Around our house, when she finds something she likes, NOTHING can distract her from it and I mean NOTHING! Every “phase” she has gone through as far as toys, shows, movies etc. has stuck like super glue and her “list” just continues to grow. This is a good thing because it show progress, but a bad thing because we have to keep several copies or items with us all the time for when the “losing fairy” visits our house and we can’t find a single pair of keys that she has to have RIGHT NOW, when just the day before we had 4 pair.
As we all know, every kid is different, SN or not. Our little human seems to fixate on particular things and she is insanely picky about what type or brand of items she will use/like/play with. When she was an infant, she would only take one specific type of pacifier & we could only get them at Babies R’ Us (which btw, we do not have in our town) so every time we would go to a specialist appointment out of town we would stock up!! I remember one specific time, the “paci fairy” visited us in the middle of our trip, we couldn’t find that flipping paci anywhere and she cried for the rest of the trip. Then, with a huge sigh of relief we found the Babies R’ Us that we always went to.. went in so excited, and naturally – they were out!!! We searched all over the city and finally found one after the 2nd or 3rd store. It was terrible but was just the beginning of her fondness for very specific things.
I’m always interested in what items other SN kids are into. Our little human is into anything sensory based, so our world revolves around chewies, crinkling things, LOUD things (a stupid horn that sounds like a dying rabbit is her current favorite, gag me with a spoon), jingly things, crunchy and crinkly things, and anything that “moves” like gears & wheels. We even had to find a specific type of glasses for her because the 3 pair insurance would pay for she hated (naturally..) She is hyposensitive, meaning she is constantly seeking input whether it be oral or physical and she is beyond rough on her things so we are always on the lookout for durable toys and sensory products that will last through her roughness & constant use. Most of the items listed below we have found through tons of research into what she “may” like & just prayed for the best. We as SN parents know that most of the time anything labeled “for therapy use” or “for sensory seekers/autistic/special needs” also means “stupid expensive” so before we purchase something or many somethings, we want to make sure it is at least a 75/25 chance that she will like it and use it on a consistent basis.
If you’re just starting you SN journey or have run out of options for your SN child and need some new (or new to you) ideas, I hope the list below will at least give you a starting point in some basic things that have been tested and are little human approved! Everything on the list we personally use or have used in the past. To say they have been “kid tested & mother approved” is a major understatement!!
Things that work for us
Chewy Tubes/Oral Sensory Seeking: There are several we have tried, but these listed below are the ones that we keep going back to again and again. Little human grinds her teeth ALL DAY, to the point that we don’t know how she still has teeth in her little mouth, but.. she does, thanks in part to these sensory chewies. She is an extremely tough and active chewer & all of these held up to her extreme & daily chewing habits.
Weights, Weighted Vests, and Compression Vests: Since little human seeks input, she stomps around like a little dinosaur and gets super wiggly because she needs the extra “physical feeling of being grounded” when she’s sensory seeking. Ankle/wrist weights are great for therapy use. Weighted vests we have found to help calm her down a bit when we are needing to do stationary or school activities. Compression vests just seem to make her happy, they’re like having a continuous hug.. calming right?! For weights/weighted vests, anywhere from 5%-10% of their body weight is recommended.
1. Empower adjustable ankle weights – we love these because you can add/reduce weight easily
2. Fun and Function Weighted Vest: We love this because it is fashionable, your child can wear it over anything & no one knows it’s any different than a regular vest. You can also have your child wear it backwards if they are infatuated with zippers! (talking from experience, it works wonders)
3. “Compression” clothing: If you look around you’ll find that specific “compression” clothing is INSANELY expensive, especially the adjustable fit. We couldn’t spend $80+ on something we weren’t even sure would work, so I looked around for DIY.. turns out that leotards (girls) and compression shirts (boys) were perfect for this, to get the correct pressure, simply purchase a size or two smaller than what your child normally wears.
Noise & Music Makers: little human is very into musical instruments, but ONLY specific types of course. These are also wonderful therapy tools to use in building jaw/mouth strength, tapping out a rythym, and dancing around to sounds.
1. Wrist/Ankle Jingle Bells: This are perfect for those impromptu dance session and add some additional input on her wrists and ankles. You can wear them on one or the other or both. I like the big pack because eventually the “jingle fairy” visits us and we can’t find 2 or 4 of them!!
2. Musical Percussion Set & Build You Own Saxoflute! : Not for the faint of heart or those with sensitive ears! We went through several percussion sets because little human is so rough on them, but this one had held up beautifully! The Saxoflute is so neat because you can change the sounds and level of lung strength needed to make the sounds! It’s a flute, trumpet, and saxophone all in one. Plus putting the parts together is a wonderful OT tool.
On the move things: Little human is ALWAYS on the go. These are a few toys/gadgets that we’ve used at home and in therapy that help to focus some of that energy into learning gross motor skills, balance, and coordination.
1. Hopper Ball: I’m sure many of you had these or played with these as kids yourselves. They are still SO MUCH FUN!! They are a great way to work on balance and coordination. This brand has held up well & comes in several different color/character choices & with a free air pump!
2. Scooter Board: We don’t have the room in our house for her to have one of these at home, but she LOVES this thing at therapy. There are many ways to practice balance and coordination using these, including “tummy time” while scooting around with your hands. Gives great input and stimulation with the vibration of the wheels.
3. Tricycle/bicycle is always going to be a great choice. Our little human doesn’t have the coordination to be able to peddle on her own, so she was gifted a hand crank AMBUCS therapy bicycle last Christmas. It has been one of the best therapy tools we have. She LOVES it. AMBUCS is a WONDERFUL organization that we are honored to be a part of. If your therapy team doesn’t have a few of these, I would suggest they look into them, as they work wonders in allowing kids to feel like their peers riding on their own bicycle/tricycle.
Playtime: Every kid has certain things they at all about. Little human has always loved toy/plastic keys, mickey mouse, and frozen. Most recently she has gotten REALLY into Toy Story & Moana (thank heavens..) so those are always characters we are looking for when it comes to toys and playtime. She’s never really been into stuffed animals of any kind, so you won’t find any of those on this list, but you will find a few cheap things we always keep on hand to help entertain her when needed.
1.Keys, Keys, and more Keys: She seriously can’t get enough of these. We buy them sets at a time because the “key fairy” swings by every two weeks or so and swipes one or three of them and we MUST have a back up. Now, they can’t be the quiet “teether” type rings.. oh no.. they must be the hard plastic “clinking” rings or the one’s that have the “car remote” on them.. anyway, here is what we buy IN BULK!
2.“Other” Toys: these are the random things little human has been or is into right now. It may change tomorrow, but these have never let us down thus far!
So lovelies… there you have them, things/toys/products our family uses or has used that have worked well with our SN little human. Of course there are MANY more things we use in our daily lives, but the above mentioned things have been put through the little human wringer and come out on the other side still intact & worthy of good play time.