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Learning Tools for Children With Autism

by Tammy Quinn Mckillip, studioD

Children with autism spectrum disorders may benefit from a large variety of assistive technologies and learning aids within the academic environment. From sensory, auditory, and visual enhancers, to specialized seating, fine-motor skill development devices, toys and games that teach communication and socialization skills, there are many available tools to help enrich the educational experiences of your special-needs child.

Sensory Aids

Visual aids are helpful educational tools for children with autism.

Provide added sensory stimulation to increase focus and calm a child with autism. Sensory aids include weighted or pressure vests, chewy tubes that attach to the end of a pencil, fidget toys or squeeze balls for manual manipulation, oblong medicine balls or rubberized cushions for seating, elastic bands for chair-rocking and exercise bands that attach to a child's arms or legs.

Visual Supports

Help a child with autism become more independent or master the concept of time by providing a visual timer in her classroom or home. From time-elapse clocks, audible timing devices, time trackers, time keeping software and liquid timing devices, there are a variety of teaching tools that can promote an efficient use of and better understanding of time for your child. Visually engaging toys and teaching aids, including sand panels, laser lights, geometric figures and spinning tops can help soothe or stimulate an autistic child in an academic or home setting.

Help with Socialization

Social skills can be improved with the help of learning aids.

Visual prompts, speech and social skills games and flash cards that promote effective conversation and communication skills will help an autistic child develop better social skills at school and at home. Picture books, DVDs, CDs and communication card sets offer entertaining lessons in social interaction, facial expressions, body language and effective word use for school or play.

Communication Aids

Purchase an electronic device, such as a notebook, pad, small laptop, or battery-operated 'talker' to help ease communications in a classroom or home setting. Specialized software programs with pictorial and word overlays are also available to adapt cell phones and computers into effective communications devices. Portable dry-erase boards are non-electronic means of quick communication and can help your child's instructor communicate or teach with drawings, visual prompts and word-and-phrase practice sessions.

Fine-Motor Skill Development

A child with autism may need help to improve her fine- or gross-motor skills.

Use pencil grips, specialized or texture papers, weighted gloves, slant boards, vibrating or specially-shaped pens or pencils, triangularly-shaped crayons and wristbands that attach to writing utensils to help an autistic child develop his fine motor skills. Specially-shaped or easy-to-grip scissors, writing lap-boards, squeezable putty, lacing needles and bendy tweezers are other tools that can be useful when a child faces fine-motor skill challenges.

Gross-Motor Skill Aids

A mini-trampoline improves balance and provides vestibular motion.

Provide your child with a mini-trampoline for fun exercise that will help improve coordination and provide the vestibular motion she craves. Large, colorful cardboard blocks are helpful in improving hand-eye coordination and are fun to stack. A see-saw style balance board can help with balance control, and a climbing arch can assist with eye-hand coordination and physical reflexes. A ride-on walker is helpful in developing muscle coordination, reflexes and sensory integration skills.

About the Author

Tammy Quinn McKillip has written extensively in print and online publications about pets, parenting, theater, design, health and environmentalism since 1999. She is the editor of the Macaroni Kid National Family Safety newsletter and publisher and editor of "Macaroni Kid," a local family-friendly weekly events newsletter. She is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at City College of New York.

Photo Credits

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