Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Play for Children with Autism

By Lesley Burton

Some of the toys that Lesley has will benefit children who are blind, visually impaired or who have multiple disabilities.

Most of us have limited time to spend looking for the kinds of toys and activities that will help to develop the children in our care. When my second son was diagnosed with autism, I spent a lot of time looking for suitable toys for children with autism. I was looking for activities to entertain him and stimulate his development in particular his play and interactive skills but it was really hard to find them.

I worked hard and built up my collection of toys for autistic children and activities and my knowledge of how to employ them. I soon realised that I was not alone in finding it difficult and that other parents of autistic children would also benefit from a one-stop parent friendly shop or catalogue to get both advice and resources to help their children develop their language and play skills. This led to the launch of a website packed with products and ideas for parents and carers of all young children but especially those with special educational needs.

The range of products includes thick wooden jigsaw puzzles with large chunky pieces and simple non-stylised pictures, lovely fabric shaped beanie bags to teach shapes and colours in a fun and tactile way, large chunky tactile shapes with big holes to encourage threading activities, cause and effect toys such as the wooden Jumping Shapes game, the Waggy Garden with its slanted posting panel so a child can see the shaped holes more easily and of course lots of tactile sensory balls such as the squirmy wormy ball.

Sensetoys helps parents find and choose which toys they need, explains how to use them and why they can work so that parents and children get the most from each product. So if you're looking for help to get started, visit

Lesley established SenseToys after many fruitless searches for toys and activities to help with the special needs of her two sons - her eldest suffered a language delay through glue ear and her second son Edward has an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

As a parent, the early stages of learning about and coming to terms with even the mildest of special needs are extremely difficult and stressful times. One of the greatest frustrations is identifying practical ways to help your child while climbing a very steep learning curve in terms of understanding the problem, including learning about whole new areas of health and education provision which most parents never encounter, there is the overwhelming desire to want to be able to do something practical.

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