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Key Takeaways:

  • Fidget toys for autism can be tactile, visual, or auditory, addressing various needs in children with autism.
  • Using fidget toys can benefit autistic children and teens by providing stress relief, increasing focus, and helping them calm down.
  • Examples of helpful fidget toys for kids with autism include fidget cubes, sliders, hand rollers, and orbit balls.

Fidget spinners, cubes, and tangles are now commonplace items in a child’s backpack. However, these fidget toys may have essential therapeutic uses for children and teens with autism.

If your child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), fidget toys for autism can help manage the symptoms associated.

What are Fidget Toys for Autism?

Fidget toys for autism come in various designs and stimulate different senses. For example:

  • Tactile fidget toys occupy the hands. These include spinners, stress balls, slime or putty, and squishy toys.
  • Visual fidget toys, such as kaleidoscopes, lamps, and other patterned objects, provide a stimulus for children to look at.
  • Auditory fidget toys stimulate hearing and make sounds when children play with them. These include squeakers, clickers, and rattles.

When choosing a fidget toy, it’s important to realize that autism in boys may differ from autism in girls, thus requiring various needs for both. Diagnosis rates for autism are more common in boys, and symptoms are typically more visible [*].

How Fidget Toys Help Kids & Teens with Autism

Regarding children and teenagers with autism, fidget toys provide lots of sensory input, which benefits children who struggle with emotional regulation. Here are a few other ways fidget toys can help children with ASD:

  • Improved focus. Occupational therapists recommend fidget toys to provide the appropriate sensory input for restless children. They are especially valuable for autistic children with concurrent ADHD, as they can help filter out other sensory information that may be distracting.
  • Stress relief. Children with autism tend to develop high-functioning anger, making it challenging for them to control their emotions. Fidgeting can be a valuable de-stressor, allowing children to calm down [*].
  • Healthy energy expenditure. A 2019 study showed preschool children improved their overall energy expenditure after fidgeting for 150 minutes [*]. Similar studies also demonstrated improvements in adults.

10 Best Fidget Toys for Kids & Teens with Autism

Sensory-based interventions incorporating fidget toys can significantly improve functionality in kids and teens with autism. Here are ten fidget toys for autism to explore.

1. Marble Maze Mat

Children must push the marble through the felt maze to use this toy, keeping them fixated and focused. It’s appropriate to use anywhere, as it is silent and non-distracting.

These sensory pads come in various bright colors, stimulating visual and tactile perception. Each maze is shaped like an animal, improving your child’s recognition and memory retention.

$17.99 on Amazon

2. Magnetic Fidget Spinner Rings

These magnetic fidget spinner rings are perfect for children of all ages. They are safe, simple to use, and provide endless fidgeting entertainment. The simple rotations can curb unwanted habits common in autism disorders, such as nail biting and skin picking.

These magnetic fidgets are small enough to fit into a pencil case or toiletry pouch. They are also highly durable and don’t tend to break when dropped.

$9.99 on Amazon

3. Textured Stretchy Strings

Some autistic children who stim (engage in self-stimulatory behavior) may demonstrate certain behaviors, such as repetition and chewing or mouthing objects. However, chewing on pencil ends or household objects can be dangerous, so finding a safe alternative, like textured stretchy strings, can provide the safe stimulation your child requires.

These brightly colored latex and BPA-free toys provide a soothing tactile experience and safe chewing. They can stretch over six feet but are easily portable.

$8.99 on Amazon

4. Orbit Ball Fidget Toy

This unique orbit ball fidget toy is a puzzle, decompression toy, and focusing tool for children with autism. Children can twist the toy into different shapes or “tracks” and move the balls within them.

Reviews show that these toys naturally relieve accumulated stress caused by schoolwork overload or personal issues, providing avenues for autistic children to relax while exercising their senses.

$5.95 on Amazon

5. Shape-Changing Robot Toy

This adorable shape-changing robot toy features telescopic pop tubes that provide tactile and auditory stimulation. Children can extend their necks, arms, and legs to different lengths.

These toys are excellent for imaginative play and exercising their fine motor skills.

$7.99 on Amazon

6. Transformable Fidget Spinner

If your child requires something more stimulating than a classic fidget spinner, look no further than the transformable fidget spinner. Each spinner features six moldable chains with high-speed bearings for easy manipulation.

Children can mold this creative sensory toy into different shapes and functional tools, such as pencil holders or mobile phone stands.

These toys are excellent for autistic children with excess energy or obsessive-compulsive habits.

$7.19 on Amazon

7. Hand Roller

If you find other fidgets too loud and want something less distracting for your child, try the ONO Roller Jr. These rollers are available in different colors and sizes, making it easy to size grips up or down.

You can use this toy by sliding it between your palms or curling your fingers around it. Children can also roll them across surfaces or massage sore legs and arms. These toys are made to withstand heavy fidgeters and can easily fit into a pocket or pencil case.

$21.24 on Amazon

8. Fidget Slider

Does your child find a fidget spinner too loud or distracting? If so, this fidget slider features more soothing haptic noises. These toys provide plenty of grip and satisfying movements that autistic children can enjoy while studying, watching a movie, or engaging in other hobbies.

These toys don’t just move back and forth—they also rotate and slide in more complex ways for additional stimulation.

$23.97 on Amazon

9. 4-in-1 Fidget Cube

While older children may enjoy six or twelve-sided fidget dice, these 4-in-1 fidget cubes provide excellent stimulation for younger kids who need something less complex. They feature a spinner shaft on the corner and are lightweight and portable for use anywhere.

They’re also heavier than your typical fidget toy, providing enhanced deep-pressure therapeutic effects for autistic children. They can also help improve sensory processing disorders by providing the stimulation required to help autistic children maintain personal space [*].

$9.99 on Amazon

10. Nee Doh

Nee Dohs aren’t just the hottest toy on the market—they provide lots of stimulation for stressed children who love squishy sensations. These cubes and balls contain non-toxic jelly-like compounds you can mold, squeeze, and poke.

The Nee Doh Groovy Glob comes in other variants like the Ripples Super Sensory Toy, which features added textures, Funky Pups, Dohjees, Cool Cats, Nice Cubes, and Gumdrops.

$3.44 on Amazon

The Bottom Line

While many modern occupational therapists recommend fidget toys as a coping mechanism for autism and its symptoms, it’s best to research what types of toys and tools will address your child’s needs best.

Sensory intervention for autistic children requires a lot of hard work. Use our social skills worksheets to address other areas of concern.

Sources:

  1. Dworzynski K, Ronald A, Bolton P, Happé F. “How Different Are Girls and Boys Above and Below the Diagnostic Threshold for Autism Spectrum Disorders?” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2012.
  2. Camara S, Agrawal R, and Isibster K. “Identifying Children’s Fidget Object Preferences | Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference.” ACM Conferences, 2018.
  3. Downing KL, Janssen X, Cliff DP, Okely AD, Reilly JJ. “Energy expenditure associated with posture transitions in preschool children.” PloS one, 2019.
  4. Rohrberger A. “The efficacy of fidget toys in a school setting for children with attention difficulties and hyperactivity.” Ithaca College, 2011.

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