15 Autism Therapy Tools for Under $25
My youngest was quiet for a few minutes, which is always a reason for worry around here…that boy is always into something! I sneaked upstairs to see what he was doing, and discovered that he had swiped my heating pad and was quietly sitting with it in his lap. Hmm…why didn’t I ever think of that?! The weight of it apparently calmed him down. That’s just one of the super cheap autism therapy tools we use on a daily basis now.
Affordable “Tools” for Therapy
If your child has autism, sensory processing disorder (SPD), or some other developmental delay, you know that therapy can get outrageous. It’s nice to fine some practical “tools” that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Some of these things you can even find around your home.
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1) Heating Pad
There are many kinds of heating pads, but for therapy purposes, we’re talking about the microwaveable, filled type. These are typically filled with rice or clay beads, and weigh 1.5 to 4 pounds. Simply nuke the heating pad per the instructions, but make sure it is not hot (just warm!), and set it in your child’s lap.
When little ones need to relax, focus, or stay calm, a weighted heating pad can work wonders! You can even add a couple drops of your favorite calming essential oils to it for a greater effect.
I have actually resorted to making my own, because they are so simple, and my boys wanted cooler designs, but my originals were like this one. They are about $15 on Amazon, and I’ve seen them in drug stores for about the same price. Store-bought or homemade, filled heating pads make great autism therapy tools.
If your child is 40 pounds or more, you probably want to go with one like this, for the added weight.
Don’t worry, I’m not talking about the messy stuff. I have been so disappointed with many “sensory foam” products that were sticky, dried out easily, and smelled of chemicals. Not this one. Educational Insights PlayFoam is the best product of its kind, doesn’t leave a mess, and never dries out. It’s usually a bit cheaper on Amazon, but you can find it at some parent-teacher stores as well.
3) Pod Swing
Pod swings are awesome. They provide the vestibular input that sensory seekers crave, and double as a cozy, calming spot. Find one here for less than $25.
4) Play Doh
Did you realize that Play-Doh can be a great autism therapy tool? Many children with these kinds of challenges struggle with fine motor development. Enters Play-Doh! Roll it, squeeze it, build with it, rip it apart – any way you look at it, it’s great for the hands.
5) Veggie Brush
Brushing is a great calming technique, and a veggie brush from the Dollar Tree is just the right size and firmness for the job. $1! You can try it dry or dipped in warm water.
6) Exercise Ball
Weighted exercise balls are one of the most versatile therapy tools. They can be used for “heavy work,” by rolling one around a room. Sensory seekers can bounce on top of them. You can give your child deep pressure input by gently bouncing one on their back or tummy, keeping the ball in constant contact with their body. The exercise ball can also help strengthen core muscles and improve balance. It is a multipurpose autism therapy tool, and you can get one for less than ten bucks here!
Hoppers are along the same lines, but they come with a handle, so your child can hold on while bouncing around on it.
7) Tiny Vibrating Pets
Stick with me here, because this one may not seem so obvious! My boys immediately fell in love with these tiny ladybugs and tiny hamsters. They are marketed as girls’ toys, but they are awesome! They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and they have a gentle vibration that makes them “crawl.” The ones in our house don’t crawl though – they travel around in my boys’ hands, providing gentle stimulation that calms them. You’ve got to try these out!
8) Balance Pods
Hedstrom Stepperz are AMAZING, but they are expensive, and not in stock at the moment. I would recommend them to anyone, because they each have different textures, and they are just amazing overall. You can check out a video review here if you are interested; they should be available again in the spring. (Did I mention they are amazing?) These Gonge tactile discs are pretty epic too – just look at the colors and designs! But they run about $10 and don’t quite fit the affordable category.
These inflatable balance pods do though! At less than $7 each, you could get a set of 3 for under $25, which is a steal! They serve the same purpose as the Stepperz, and they are much more realistic for the average household. There is a difference in texture from top to bottom, but the top side is the one that is intended for stepping on. They come in various colors, so you could make it a bit more interesting by purchasing different ones.
9) Fidget Toys
Oh how we love fidget toys! Honestly, the possibilities are endless here, and fidget toys are really a super autism therapy tool. There are spinners, stretchy fidgets, fidget cubes, and so many other options. Here are a few of our favorites:
10) Squishy Toys and Stress Balls
Squishy toys are everywhere – Walmart, Amazon, the Dollar Tree, and pretty much anywhere else! They basically act as stress balls, but they are much cuter. We are starting a collection of these ones at our house lately! (Should I admit that I snatch them when the boys are napping?)
This set is the next one on my personal wish list…I can’t get over how adorable they are – especially the kitty in the cup! This brand even has one that looks like a pink Starbucks cup! And here’s a unicorn, for all you unicorn lovers out there!
You can make your own stress ball with a balloon and some sand too. Whichever route you go, these squishy things make great autism therapy tools on the cheap!
11) Color Changing Light Bulb
For the visual seekers, and for calming corners, these color changing light bulbs are awesome! What I love most about this particular one is that you can change the speed of the color rotation. And you can set it to a single color. And you can change the intensity of the light. And it operates by remote control! Okay, so I like a lot of things about it.
We have this light bulb in our sensory room, and it is great for setting a calm mood for story time. It also works great for when the boys want to be active – set the rotation to a faster speed, and have a dance party!
12) Food Grade Tubing
What? Yes, you read that right. Food grade tubing is great alternative for kids who love to chew. My 3 year old used to always chew on his Hot Wheels…like, chew the wheels off kind of chew! Some kids don’t take to the Chewelry (as amazing as I think it is), so food grade tubing is a safe, effective, and affordable way to go.
13) Water Timer
Another great visual therapy tool is a water timer. You can make your own “calm down bottle” from this list of ideas, or snag one of these cool water timers. Both are great options for visual seekers.
Check out this other post for more gift ideas for kids with autism and SPD. 🙂
14) Pool Noodles
The possibilities for pool noodles are endless! Cut it in half long ways, and make a balance beam for proprioceptive input. Roll it up and down your child’s back for deep pressure therapy. Use them to make an obstacle course. Cut them into small rings and fill up a baby pool or sensory bin. You can pick them up at the Dollar Tree during the warm months, and that’s about as cheap as it gets!
15) Vibrating Stuffed Animal
Man, I wish I would have known about vibrating stuffed animals three years ago! This past Christmas, my boys found them in the gift section at the front of Walmart, and they have been a Godsend ever since! My boys love their cats!
Cheap Autism Therapy Tools
We all know how expensive kids can be. Therapy, equipment, and other resources add up quickly too. So it’s nice to find affordable autism therapy tools whenever possible.
Some of these were suggestions from our therapists, and we came up with many of them through trial and error. Let me know below how they work for you, and share your favorite budget friendly autism therapy tools in the comments!