For parents with autistic children, even the most ordinary of tasks can be made more difficult due to their child’s specific needs. Even just buying toys can be problematic due to sensory processing disorder, a frequent corollary of autism. The disorder causes children with autism to crave or shun certain sensations and to constantly seek out new stimuli. This layer of unpredictability means that a toy ordered online or purchased from a traditional toy store might be fine for some children with autism, but not for others.
In response, a toy store geared towards autistic children has opened in Chicago. But “Spectrum,” located in Roscoe Village, isn’t just a toy store. In addition to offering toys designed to suit children with autism, it has partnered with a local nonprofit to use its merchandise in on-site sessions that aid child development of communicative, cognitive and motor skills. While online ordering of toys has been the standing option for parents with children affected by the sensory disorder, a store that caters to the demographic enables children to test out the toys and be involved in the process.
By serving as part toy store, part therapy, and part community support, Spectrum is serving as a model for toy stores across the world. Even Toys ‘R’ Us, for example, has started having “quiet hours,” during which it dims the lights and cuts the background music, to better enable autistic children to browse its wares. The hope is that these new initiatives can help children with autism develop and learn better than before.
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