Finding advice about good toys for autistic girls is hard because of autistic boys severely outnumber autistic girls. In a previous post about autism in girls I mentioned stats about this sex discrepancy in the autistic population: 1 in 80 boys has autism while only 1 in 240 girls has autism. For high-functioning autistics such as those with aspergers, the sex imbalance is even greater with estimates of 10 autistic boys for each autistic girl.
I also talked about how autistic girls view the world differently from autistic boys, and they have different interests. I concluded by describing several types of toys that are good for autistic girls:
- Toys that promote imaginative pretend-play activities, especially if such activities can be played with others. This means that popular girl toys such as Barbies would work.
- Books!–fantasy books, books aimed at young girls such as the Babysitters series, etc.
- Art toys, such as etch-a-sketch or arts and crafts kits
- Music composition toys, such as Neurosmith’s Music Blocks
With the Christmas season in full swing there are a slew of new toys on the market, some of which are appropriate for autistic girls. I looked through the top toys for this Christmas season and describe a few in this post that seem like they would be good selections for autistic girls. These include dancing and singing robotic toys, dolls, electronic toys, art sets, as well as plush toys. In this post I’ll talk about Fijit Friends and Let’s Rock Elmo–two hot toys that would be good for autistic girls this Christmas season.
Fijit Friends ($50 from Amazon)
Remember the Furby craze from the late 90’s? Well Fijit seems to want to be this Christmas’s Furby. What are Fijit Friends? They are battery powered characters that talk, sing, and dance with your child. Four Fijit characters are for sale, and each has a different personality. These characters include the pink colored Serafina, dubbed the “sweetie-pie” Fijit friend; purple Willa, the “trend-setting Fijit friend”; Logan, the “sporty Fijit friend”; and Sage, the “adventurous Fijit friend.” They are marketed as a girl’s BFF’s (for those of you not up to date on the lingo, that’s “best friends forever”).
Mattel makes Fijit friends and advertises the following features
- Have a soft, tactile skin that looks realistic in whatever way that cartoon characters are supposed to look realistic
- Move animatedly with lights and sounds
- Respond to voices and sounds (tv sounds, etc.) with phrases and jokes
Fijits are geared towards girls 6-12 years old. They are available from Amazon.com and other toy stores.
Customers who loved the toy rave about how fun it is to interact with the Fijits, as well as the build quality of the rubber body.
However, customer reviews of this toy are mixed. Customers who dislike the toy complain about difficulties it has understanding some voice commands, the high price, as well as durability issues. Some parents also complain that it gets boring after a while become it often says the same things over and over.
I don’t think the complaints about it being boring will necessarily be too important to autistic girls, as many children don’t seem to mind interacting with something in the same fashion over and over again. And this might actually make Fijit a better toy for autistic girls because it provides a controlled, safe environment to practice verbal interaction (similar to a benefit the iPad provides) as well as to dance and sing. The toy also doesn’t have any small parts and has a soft outer body so it won’t pose choking hazards–one of the main toy hazards that still exist. If you’re willing to shell out the cash and find a Fijit this season, it’s a good choice.
Let’s Rock Elmo ($65 from Amazon)
Every year seems to bring another variation of the Tickle Me Elmo craze. This year, that incarnation is named Let’s Rock Elmo. You can see a video review of Let’s Rock Elmo on youtube here.
There are lots of things to like about Let’s Rock Elmo. After years of working on Elmo toys, Hasbro has ironed out most of the kinks and made each iteration better than the last. What makes this version of Elmo great?
- Elmo sings six songs
- Elmo sings and dances, interacting with the plastic “instruments” included with him (you can buy more instruments from Hasbro as well)
Hasbro says Elmo is for kids aged 18 months to 4 years, but adults seem to love them as well. Let’s Rock Elmo is for sale at Amazon for around $65.
Online reviews are very good. Customers rave about the realistic movement of Elmo, and how well he interacts with his instruments. Also, there are no choking hazards. Parents of young children (3 and under) seem to especially love it and rave about how much their kids enjoy singing, laughing, and dancing with Elmo.
Some customer reviews complain that the arms appear easy to break (though they haven’t broken yet), and that Elmo sometimes does strange things. If you’ve ever played with any of the tickle me Elmo toys like I have, I don’t think strange behaviors are out of the norm for these toys (or Elmo himself) so that’s not a big surprise or a big complaint in my book. Also, the price tag is high, but that’s also been typical of past mechanized Elmo toys. Finally, even though Elmo makes everyone want to hug him, this Elmo like other mechanized Elmos of yesteryear is not a soft toy, so it’s not something you child can cuddle in bed with.
If you can stomach the high price tag, Elmo has proven himself to be a very popular toy over the years and this year’s version looks even better. The musical abilities, rather than just giggling as in past versions, makes it especially good for autistic girls because autistic children respond well to music.
Please chime in with comments if you have already bought these toys for your autistic daughter and have anecdotes, or have bought similar toys in the past.