Just Give Him the Toy!


Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have what the medical model calls “repetitive or restricted interests.” Although these interests, fascinations, or rituals may seem “strange” to us, they offer the child sensory stimulation and relief. Allowing your child to engage with his or her special interest, whether that is magazines or bottle tops, provides them with a sense of calmness.  For example, sitting in solitude is their oxygen, it helps block out negative thoughts, eases their anxiety from the day and provides a sense of predictability that they need.

Often parents believe that by giving their child this special interest (book, stamps, train) they are “giving in” to them and losing control. Instead, we should shift our mindset to thinking that this interest gives us something to work with- a motivator.

The following are some ideas for incorporating special interests into day to day activities (using the example of trains):

  • Take out all the trains  you have at home and make it a counting activity,
  • Have your child sort through a pile or trains, finding the ones that are the same or different,
  • Draw pictures of trains, commenting on what you see (E.g. “I spy…”),
  • Make a mystery bag of trains where your child has to reach in the bag and describe what he/she feels and when he/she takes it out describes what he/she sees,
  • Use the trains to work on goals such as prepositions. Hide the trains between, on top, beside, inside and under  furniture and walk around the house together giving clues where the trains are hidden (E.g., under the desk, between the books),
  • Create a schedule to outline what he/she will be doing that day and cut and paste trains on the schedule to make it more visually appealing, and
  • Read a book together with characters that are trains or other modes of transportation he/she enjoys.

These are only a few ideas using trains; however these examples could be applied to many different interests. Be creative and have fun! Use your child’s strengths to motivate, facilitate and engage them in activities!

 This blog was inspired from a lecture given by Temple Grandin at the Geneva Conference for Autism, November 2010.

Written by: Ashleigh Wishen, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.


2 responses to “Just Give Him the Toy!

  1. My name is Tony Gross and I am the Community Director of MyVoice AAC.

    “MyVoice is a groundbreaking app for Mac and Android devices that help people with speech and language disabilities. Its signature product – the MyVoice Communication Aid – launched just a few months ago, is already giving a voice to close to 7000 users in 12 countries. Pioneering industry-first technologies such as location-aware vocabularies and wireless, web-based customization, MyVoice is also free to use with affordable upgrades. While originally developed for speech issues, My Voice has been greatly welcomed for use within the Autism community because of it’s features that document routines and familiar information. the swipe storytelling feature has can allow communication without the necessity of direct interaction. MyVoice is also helping to make Ontario a world leader in assistive technology.”

    I would be thrilled to tell you more about MyVoice,

    Tony Gross
    Community Director
    MyVoice | The Smart Yet Simple Communication Aid
    Follow MyVoice on Twitter:@myvoiceinc

    • Hi Tony,

      We are familiar with your app and would love to know more. You can email me directly and I will send you a message to your email.

      I am a clinical manager at the STCC, and am the clinical lead for AAC. We do like what we have seen so far with the function of your app, not just for kids, but our adult clients as well.

      Megan Wood Pagonis, M.Sc. SLP (C) reg. CASLPO

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