Tuesday, April 1, 2014

World Autism Day: Easy Therapy Items

Happy World Autism Day to you!

Our journey with autism has spanned just over a decade and two kids. One of my favorite pastimes is turning simple play into therapy for the littles. So often Moms look to professional therapists not realizing that they themselves are the best therapist around! Here's some easy ideas:

A very simple shape sorter. Any kind will work and they are so easy to find! I like ones that are colorful and have just a few shapes. Circles, ovals, and smoothed edge pieces are always easiest while angles and sides are more difficult.  We always start easy because of short attention spans. Izaiah can now pay attention for a few minutes (with cues) to complete a task. 

This kind of activity teaches colors, shapes, numbering if you count. It also requires eye-hand coordination and uses tactile senses.  It's also just good for practicing sit down activities which is good for learning readiness.  You can work on stretching that attention span by dumping them out and starting all over again! Be sure to talk out loud, always identifying the shapes and colors and cheering (quietly for sensitive ears) as the shapes land in their correct places.


This is another inexpensive and easy toy to find. It has stack-able cups that also nest. This one doubles as a shape sorter.  Be sure to count them, identify colors, talk about smallest to biggest, hide the shapes in and under the cups. Be animated when your child finds treasures inside! Toys like these are great for the tub too.  

This is the same toy, but stacked.  This is a fabulous exercise in fine motor control and attention span. It's also rewarding to build the tower and then knock it all down too!

You may have heard the term 'self-stim' before. Our kids like to keep their hands busy. They love feeling objects running through their hands, over and in between fingers.

They may like to squish and squeeze soft plastic items. Izaiah loves to wring cloth in his hands. Socks are his favorite 'go-to.' We often find our drawers raided!

Little blankets, wash-rags, small and twisty stuffed animals can also be rustled up. Even the task of  finding their 'stims' is therapeutic. Izaiah also enjoys paper towels and toilet paper, which I often find littered in tiny little pieces about the house, which is not so fun, but take heart, these days do not last forever! 

Plastic sensory bin
Wooden Box

You can also use 'sensory tubs.' Turn any little box - plastic or wooden, or even a large mixing bowl into a sensory tub. I have two examples here, one is a plastic tote and the other just a wooden box.

The plastic tote is filled with pegs and foam shapes, the wooden one is filled with plastic buttons and wooden letters.Fill with beads, buttons, marbles, rice, pebbles, pasta, coffee grounds, cotton balls, ice, whatever they might like to run their fingers through. Just be sure to watch age appropriateness and allergies - you don't want choking or allergic reactions! 

Other toys that are useful are cause and effect toys like hammering a ball
through a maze, or levers that cause action or music to play. Little trains that run on tracks or chunky toys that aren't overwhelming but have parts that your child can get a reaction from by pushing, pulling, pressing, or hammering. Soft lights and sounds are good.

I hope you are enjoying reading and researching all about autism! I will have more up and coming during this season of awareness and acceptance so watch for my posts about Meltdown Tips, Bio-med Treatments, and some recipes for super-sensitive, allergy riddled kids.  

If you're needing more advanced Therapy Play click here.

Being parents of special needs children means lots of changes. If you are here, most likely you are just beginning your journey. You will learn that it isn't the children we are trying to change. It's we parents who do most the changing.

During the course of those dramatic changes most of the world is not changing with us. Our world skids to a stop and when it picks up again, our priorities have changed. What took precedence before no longer carries an ounce of weight. New things that matter weigh us down so hard, it nearly breaks us. Our families and friends go about their lives, leaving us behind, even if unknowingly, it still hurts. The feeling of being left with little comfort can lead to bitterness and unforgiveness. If you are there, you're not alone. The parable about the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35 sure helped me let it go.  I hope it helps you too. 

I'm paraphrasing the story here but, Jesus told of a thieving servant who owed his king more than he could ever repay. "Ten thousand talents" in fact, was the sum. That was like saying a bazillion, gazillion, trillion, dollars!  What was stolen could NEVER be repaid. Yet the master took pity on this servant and forgave him the astronomical debt.

Then, this same thieving servant found one under him who owed him 'an hundred pence.' In today's money that would be about $1.63 or so. Easily repayable! yet the forgiven servant did not take an ounce pity on this man! He threw this servant under him into prison for $1.63 directly after being forgiven a debt of a bazillion, gazillion, trillion dollars. Unthinkable!

When the king learned of all this, he turns the ungrateful servant over to his creditors. He would have been jailed, in fact, his whole family may have been enslaved. Forever! Because, this debt was more than could ever be repaid. He would never work hard enough to earn a bazillion, gazillion, trillion to pay the debt. His family would work all of their lives but still, it could never be repaid, yet they would die trying.

The king in the story is God. He is so merciful to forgive us our sin which is so much, it is a bazillion, gazillion, trillion. But, He forgives us our debt and even supplied the cover for our sin who is Christ alone. If we do not accept Christ as our only Lord and Savior, we will spend an eternity in hell trying to repay that debt, the bazillion, gazillion, trillion,  but it will never be enough. All eternity in hell will not be enough time to pay off our debt.

Our friends and family are like the servant who only owed $1.63. Since God has forgiven us our enormous debt surely we can forgive our friends and family! The price is so small yet it hinders our communion with God. God is not obliged to hear our prayer when we are filled with bitterness and unforgiveness inside.

This parable touched me in a new way recently and I asked God to bring to mind all those 'servants' in my life and one by one I have been freeing myself of bitterness and unforgiveness. Our journey through autism can be a mighty tough one but it is so much better when we are free of the burden of bitterness.  We are never alone, God is always there with us and he will supply what we need to get through.

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