Limited Interests

Posted on: February 27, 2012

I’ve spoken about limited interests before and how much of an effect it can have on your child and yourself, trying to keep up with a child who can’t be occupied, is climbing furniture, running up and down the room, rocking back and forth, hand flapping….A child that just doesn’t respond to you, doesn’t look when their name is called – it can be frustrating, exhausting and emotionally draining.

I used to spend each day wondering why A didn’t want to play with toys, didn’t want to play a game with me, didn’t want to even look at me or have me anywhere near him at times – some days I’d think he hated me, other days id wonder what i was doing wrong or I’d be so tired from chasing him around the house, moving things he wasnt allowed to touch and lifting him down from the furniture that I didn’t have time to think.

When I went on the National Autistic Society Early Birds Course – this was the first time I realised I wasnt alone. I was opening up about how hard I was finding coping with A’s wandering & constant need for distraction and occupying, for once I didn’t feel like a failure.

I learnt that children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders tend to prefer toys such as shape and colour matching, jigsaw puzzles and construction materials. It’s also a good thing to encourage physical activity, because it doesn’t involve any need for imagination or understanding of language, its free-play, usually your child is in control and so its more enjoyable. It’s also been proven to help reduce problem behaviours through distraction and focus on an activity, also improving some key skills such as co-ordination.

Here is a list of toys and games that have proved popular with ASD Children

  • Bubbles – These can also help with the early stages of speech through making sounds: ‘Pop’ < “Can you pop the bubbles?” – Fun and learning at the same time.
  • Torches/Disco Balls – A, is fascinated by lights, he gets really excited and is a great way of calming stressful situations.
  • Shape Sorters – A short but focused activity, also helps hand-eye co-ordination.
  • Jigsaws
  • Duplo, Lego.
  • Marble runs – can be stimulating to watch
  • Trains
  • Drawing, colouring, paints, crafts.
  • Dvds – great for distraction if you have a portable dvd and for occupying should you want a 5 minute break 🙂

Books are also a great hit with lots of children –

  • Board books are great to buy as less likely to be damaged.
  • Books with flaps keep a child’s attention and build anticipation.
  • Books made of fabric and different textures can be great for sensory needs.

Toys for outdoors and physical activity

  • Trampoline – in my case great instead of buying a new sofa, also great to burn off excess energy and FUN!
  • Slide – Great for your little climbers, if they can’t climb the furniture, give them an alternative – we used to have a great big slide in our living room!
  • Swing – Great for children who like to rock.
  • Sandpit or water table – again great for sensory play

Computers and Computer games are fascinating to children with Autism and can be a great way of getting them focused on something.

Its important to set rules/boundaries from the beginning though.

  • ipad’s – Although expensive they facilitate communication and aid in learning. The iPad, like other computers, is an effective tool for many on the autism spectrum. Its flexibility and portability offer some additional advantages, over laptops or PCs. The touch screen and layout make the iPad more accessible for children with coordination or learning difficulties; these children may find sliding and tapping easier than either typing or writing. Moreover, the iPad can be easily carried, and thus is helpful for calming and focusing children who are on the go – would really help in stressful situations as a distraction tool such as going out to places.
  • Nintendo DS.

Software recommended for those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders are as follows

  • Character software
  • Factual software such as Microsoft’s Magic School Bus or the online encyclopedia Encarta
  • Software to develop vocabulary such as the Talking animated alphabet (Sherston:
  • Software for young children such as Make it happen: jump ahead toddler (Knowledge Adventure)

I hope some of these suggestions can be helpful to others – tomorrow I’ll be blogging about people games to aid interaction and communication as well as sharing and taking turns.

If anyone has any other toy or software suggestions that their child has really enjoyed please share by commenting below.

L x


5 Responses to "Limited Interests"

Our Therapist told us about the IPAD but do you think the IPOD touch would work

Hiya, another fab post. Sometimes I wonder do you see inside my house, your posts are so spot on and uncannily about things that we are finding challenging at the time.

Limited interests, I could go on and on. As M has got older, he is so rigid with his interests it can be so trying. When he was younger it was Thomas the Tank Engine, videos and DVDs over and over again, constantly stopping and rewinding to the same spot. All the trains collected, every Thomas memorabilia you can imagine.

Then came the Wii, and DS. He also loves an old PS1 and PS2, these are great because the games are very cheap on ebay secondhand, and the lower graphics is easier for him to process.

Now its Mario, Luigi, and Sonic the Hedgehog and Friends. He has all the toys, and watches alot of stuff on youtube about them. (You need content filtering for it, theres some horrid stuff doctored out there too, but thats another story.).

The game on the PS2 is Need for Speed, he plays it quite abit but mostly loves, looking at the cars, going through their types, roof, decals, wheels etc etc. Every day I have to be shown them.

So interests can do your head in, but…..they can also be very helpful, particularly if you are trying to get him to do something he doesn’t really want to do. His interests can be incorporated.

When he was about 5/6 ish, we had a fab reward system at school. If he could stay on task for the required amount of time (short), he got a token off his TA, which he put into his Token box. If he reached 10 tokens at the end of the week, he got a reward. Each Friday they would empty the box and count them, (incorporating his love of numbers). We made the tokens out of little pictures of cars (his interest at the time), and the reward was a toy car. We bought a big pack cheaply from toys r us, took a picture of each one, stuck it on his chart, and he could choose the car he wanted each Friday. It didn’t cost much and worked really well.

We have a 10 ft trampoline in the back garden, with safety net…best thing we have ever bought. Of all the toys M has had outside, this is the most successful, he bounces away for ages, and we play counting the bouncing games, and get good old Mario to bounce too. Once piece of advice, get a cover and keep it clean, M gets obsessed if theres any leaves or insects on it, we have to brush it down alot.

Take care, and keep up the fab posts

Jo x

Very helpful blog. Since Apple just annnounced untold billions in profits and their Chinese work force has threatened suicide over their terrible working conditions, it may be a good time to ask Apple to donate older, unsold versions of the iPad to the autistic community. They could use some good PR and I know other ASD parents who agree with you that they are really helpful for their kids.

I was wondering if domino runs would be of any use – setting up and setting them off

My K is obsessed by electric and water so we have to constantly watch him! He loves and battery powered toy with bubbles, and has a lawn mower that throws bubbles out. He enjoys dominoes, to play and to create patterns to knock down! Toys can be played with in unusual ways, that’s what our kids want to do, not how we want them to play.

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