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September 17, 2021 2 min read

More children are being diagnosed with autism than ever before; one in 68 children has now been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls). If you’re a parent or caretaker of one of these children, you know how hard it can be to ensure a child with autism stays safe and calm while still prioritizing his or her dignity, happiness and development. Fortunately, more and more tools are being developed to help children with autism manage some common challenges, especially challenges with sensory input and response. More than 90% of children with autism also have atypical sensory behaviors, but many of those children can be more successful with some support from specialized tools. Here are five all parents of children with autism should know about:

Sensory-Friendly Toys

Sensory-friendly toys are designed to encourage sensory exploration, and are often used in sensory integration therapy. These are toys with many different textures that can be squeezed, stretched, petted -- even bitten. The best part is that your child will just get to play, rather than therapy having to feel like “work.”

Pressurized Hug Vests

Pressurized vests can produce the same sensation as a firm hug -- without crowding or overwhelming your child. Many of these vests (or alternate versions made with weights) can be discreetly worn under other clothing to provide comfort while still offering your child some privacy.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Sometimes, it’s important to be able to block out unwanted sensory stimuli, especially when you have no choice but to go someplace loud (such as on an airplane). Many companies make soft noise-reducing earmuffs sized for children.

Tent Retreats

If your child struggles with meltdowns -- a very common manifestation of autism -- then he or she may need a special retreat to go and calm down. It’s important that this be a special haven, not a time-out or punishment. While you can find different retreats everywhere you go, tents that can be easily transported and popped up are a great choice, since children with autism tend to do better when variation is kept to a minimum.

Weighted Sensory Blankets

Weighted blankets for kids with autism are thought to work because they stimulate deep pressure points in the body that trigger relaxation and the release of natural chemicals to aid in mood stabilization and sleep. Weighted blankets tend to cost only around $60 to $175, so they’re often worth trying as an alternative to drug therapy.

Did you know about the benefits of weighted blankets, or any of these other tools? Share what has and hasn't worked for your family in the comments.