There has been a big push in toy markets and a rise in mainstream popularity for toys originally conceived with additional and/or special needs in mind. Who can forget the fidget spinner craze a few years back? and more recently the dinosaur mesh ball has become a favourite in all toy boxes across the land!.
Now the toys in question are touted as being able to enhance and develop the senses of sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste. They are believed to have a marked positive improvement for children with ASD. As you can imagine there are studies that have addressed this equally admirable and bold claim.
Let's look at a study exploring Sensory Integration (SI), which, put simply is a process whereby materials such as toys are used to illicit certain sensory responses and establish them better through repetition and subsequently habit. Now these same sensory responses are often not articulated properly by children and adults who have ASD or sensory difficulties generally. The Pilot Study in question can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708964/.
Interestingly the study looked at 2 groups of children both aged 6-12 years of age both demonstrating difficulties with sensory processing. The first group had sessions using the SI approach with the latter being treated through a process designed to develop their fine motor skills. In comparison the study concludes that the first group displayed "fewer autistic mannerisms", after the interventions when compared with the 2nd.
So, overall the rise in popularity in sensory toys is fantastic in practical terms, as it can be argued that it contributes to improving the life chances of the consumers and their children. What is even more encouraging is that despite the trying economic times the toy industry as a whole is expected to grow by 4.5% in the period 2019-2024. This of course translates to more of our children being helped by these toys as they venture through this rich tapestry we know as "life".