MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Raising a child with autism presents a special set of challenges. Finding the right toys to promote learning and fun can be a struggle — without help.
Like any 6-year-old, Gabe Wegner loves a trip to the toy store.
But Gabe is on the autism spectrum.
“He has a lot of sensory issues,” his mom Cari Wegner said.
She said many of the toys other kids play with can be too much for him.
“Because there are blinking lights and they’re flashing and they’re making sounds, and that’s just too overwhelming for him,” she said.
A new partnership between Creative Kidstuff and St. David’s Center, who works with children with special needs, is making it easier to connect children on the autistism spectrum with toys that will help them grow.
“Children with autism have more difficulty with social communication, with emotional identification, with that engagement and interaction,” said Sarah Rehman, of St. David’s Center.
Wegner said Gabe seems to like puppets.
“Puppets are happy,” she adds.
She also said they help him communicate his feelings and defuse tense situations.
“If Gabe doesn’t want to brush his teeth, because it’s a sensory thing and can cause him pain,” she said. “Puppet brushes his teeth, Gabe brushes his teeth.”
Toys with texture help with motor skills.
“Because it’s easier for him to catch it — it doesn’t slip through his hands,” she said. “So it gives him a little more confidence, too.”
The folks at St. David’s have even trained the Creative Kidstuff staff to help families identify toys that fit their child’s specific needs.
For parents like Wegner, that alone is life changing.
“You had to go online and find them at a wholesaler, and then you didn’t know what you were looking for and it was very difficult,” she said.
Creative Kidstuff is also considering hosting quiet hours.
They would dim the lights and turn down the music so that children who are higher on the autism spectrum can visit the store comfortably.
For more information on the toys, click here.