Many children and adults on the autism spectrum experience difficulty processing everyday sensory information. Any of the senses may be over or under sensitive (or both) (The National Autistic Society). Using the pool as therapy, which includes the use of sensory toys to learn about the senses as well as learning how to swim for safety purposes, are both important parts of ASD water education.
When it comes to the pool, all children enjoy playing with toys in the water. You’ve got your classic floaties, beach balls, and buckets, but you’re wondering if there are any more ASD specific toys to help your child with ASD enjoy their trip to the pool. This is where sensory toys come into the equation. “ Sensory toys are toys that provide the particular sensory input that many children with autism crave. Whether it is visual or tactile, the toys have the power to capture kids’ attention, making the right sensory toy a powerful reinforcer (reward) in applied behavioral analysis (ABA) programs.” (Autism Community Store). Everyone with ASD is unique, but favorite toys include stretchy/squishy toys, anything that lights up, and spinning toys.
Take a look at our list below for some ideas on what you should be bringing to the pool for your child with ASD.
This toy can be used in and out of the pool. Bounce or hit the ball to start up the flashing lights on the inside. The outside sports a stimulating outer layer of rubber plastic spikes that are a favorite for kids with autism who crave sensory input.
The Quack Stack from Fat Brain Toys, is a duck-shaped bath toy with a beak that pours water and propeller wings which spin as you pour the water over them. It can be suction cupped to a surface through the ducks feet so it stays in place as your child pours the water and learns about cause and effect through the quickly spinning wings.
Pluï is a cute water toy that teaches children basic physical principles by immersing it in water to fill it up and then letting it rain.
This tactile and visually stimulating toy octopus from Toysmith lights up about 13 seconds each time its activated. It comes in 3 colors and is about 5 inches long. This is great for bath time, pool time, or anything in between.
This bath whisk works just like your kitchen eggbeater. Using a hand operated crank, turn the handle and you’ll have your own bubbly, mesmerising, whirlpool fun in the water. Made of plastic and measuring about 10” tall, this simple and sturdy toy from HABA Toys will engage children of all ages.
This little Boon Toys scuba diver is only about 5 inches tall, but he loves exploring the water. He lights up with changing colors, but only when he’s in the water!
Think of these as little jelly fish water building blocks. Also from Boon Toys, they’re made of plastic and suction cups, and can be stuck to most surfaces, and even to each other to build fun structures. They come in bright colors, and offer endless fun while in the water.
This themed water toy kit from Curious Minds Busy Bags, includes jumbo gems and coins for water play. The jewels and coins are thick and durable, and can be used in water tables or swimming pools as dive toys.