Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year

Christmas is a perfect time of year to remember all that has happened during the year and to spend time with those you love.  May your memories bring you much fun and laughter.

All the best for 2014.

- The Toy Bug

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Stocking Fillers

When I was a child I sometimes had more enjoyment out of the stocking fillers and trinkets than I did from the main gifts. They were usually full of colour or movement and caught my attention immediately.

Now I make sure that each year I have a great range of stocking fillers in stock for the children who are like the child I once was. They are kids filled with imagination and looking for fun in the holiday season.

Take a look at some of the great toys I have found this year. 

Christmas Dancing Characters – I love these. They are cute wooden Christmas characters which have a moveable wooden base. Just push down on it and it makes the character dance around. Even very small children of age 3+ can use these and make the elf, reindeer, snowman, Christmas tree or Santa dance.

Wind Up Butterfly – You could make these educational by showing how the toy works but why ruin the fun on Christmas Day? Let your children wind up these pretty creatures and set them fluttering along the floor.

Santa Hand Cluster – All your child needs is a hand cluster and he or she can make music. Playing along with Christmas carols or learning about rhythm will all be fun because this is easy to grip and use. In fact, it almost sounds like Santa’s sleigh bells!

None of our stocking fillers are expensive and all of them are fun. They will stimulate the senses and the imaginations of your children and I suspect you will have as much fun with them as your kids do.

We are running out of time for Christmas deliveries so place your order now as these toys will be fun throughout the whole holiday period.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Why Kids Are Afraid Of Santa

As Christmas rolls around, so too does the desire to capture an image of your cherubs with the jolly man himself, Santa Claus.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a great snap of the kids, sitting calmly with a smile on their face, and looking at the camera. Chances are however, that the kids will be screaming, looking overwhelmed or just plain terrified.

Kids are frightened of Santa, and there is mounting evidence on the internet of this phenomena. Although we wish it to be otherwise, it makes sense that they are. As their parents, we remind them often about stranger danger, taking things – especially lollies – from people they don’t know and warn them of being overly-familiar with unfamiliar faces.

Then, once a year, we not only expect them to speak to this strange man, but sit on his lap and take things from him. It can be a little confusing.

Santa is also rather big and rather loud, his face is mostly obscured and he’s wearing clothes more suited to snowy climes than the Australian summer. It can be a little disconcerting.

Whilst the message of stranger danger is vital, you can help your child feel comfortable with Santa, without causing them angst or giving them mixed messages.

Give them time to watch Santa chat with other children so they can see that he is actually nice and friendly. Let them become familiar with his behaviour and ways of doing things and don’t rush or pressure them into speaking to him or sitting on his lap.

Most importantly, you need to show that Santa is approachable and that you are comfortable with him. Children pick up a lot from your reactions and behaviours towards circumstances and people.

You’ll get the most out of your children and the photos if you approach Santa first, strike up a conversation, shake hands, smile and be merry yourself in your interaction. This will show your child that Santa isn’t a scary giant out to terrify kids, but a really nice man that even your mum likes.

You never know he might just grant you your Christmas wish as well!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What To Do In The Holidays

Christmas means holidays, and lots of time to spend with family and friends. It is certainly a fun and busy time for all, but can present a challenge to adapt for those who encounter sensory difficulties. 

All kids benefit from sensory-based activities and with the holidays allowing us a little extra time to relax and breathe, it is a great time of year to engage children in activities the whole family can enjoy. Here are just a few ideas.

Baking up some goodies in the kitchen is an easy and fun way to engage the kids, and they can sample all their hard work at the end. From measuring and mixing ingredients, following instructions, to the finishing touches in decoration and presentation, it helps give kids some ownership and productive input into the activity. The smell of yummy things cooking in the kitchen is a holiday memory for a lifetime.

Christmas is the perfect time to get out the paints and glitter pens. Help the kids get creative and make some individual tree decorations. Making personalised Christmas cards, wrapping paper and gift boxes also gives a special touch to any gift.

Everyone loves a Christmas carol. Put on some music allowing everyone to sing and dance. Why not make some of your own music by getting some simple bells or even use some kitchen utensils. There is nothing more fun than playing and singing along to ‘Jingle Bells’ – all kids get a kick out of that.

So Many Colourful Lights
Check out the Christmas lights! Many neighbourhood houses will have a spectacular display of sparkling lights to spend time in awe watching. It’s great if there are some nearby to where you live, because it gives an excellent opportunity to take an early evening stroll with the kids and discover all the changing coloured light displays. But if there is nothing nearby, check listings for your area on the internet as you may find something quite close.

Christmas is by far one of our favourite times of year as there are plenty of fun things to see and do. Do you have a favourite activity?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Domino Fun

Dominoes are great fun for both kids and adults, and have been around since the 18th century where they first appeared in Italy.

Whether you prefer the more traditional game of dominoes or are more into the domino show, where you stand them up and then topple them, then make sure you browse our store.

Currently in stock is our Texture Dominoes which feature seven different tactile surfaces.  This colourful game will help to develop your child's sensory awareness, colour recognition and fine motor skills.  Similarly our Animal Dominoes allows you to match both animals and colours.

Extremely popular is our Domino Rally Game (get in quick as it is almost sold out!) which contains a massive 247 blocks.  It is a great educational toy for developing logical thought processing, concentration and patience.  And it is great fun too!  Can you really get all pieces in place without them falling over?  Go on, give it a try?

Our Penguin Dominoes are cute and funky to boot!  Knock the penguins over with a ball or a swinging beam.  Arrange them to go upstairs, downstairs or any way you want and then knock them over.  This one is great for the little ones, as is the Hammer Ball Game.  Little ones will love pounding the colourful wooden balls through the holes and watching and listening as the balls roll down the bars.

Dominoes make a great change from all the electronic toys and gadgets which are popular with the kids these days and allow the family to bond and play together.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Entering Puberty

Puberty can be hard. Some families breeze through, but this is rarely the case when the dynamic includes a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum and the child may not have the developmental maturity matching the physical changes they are experiencing.

Parents of kids with ASD know better than anyone that the strategies to deal with any change, including puberty, need to be individual and flexible and very much depend on the level of skill in communication and cognition.

Respond to questions and a growing awareness of any physical differences in an age appropriate way, as you would any other child, and prepare them by discussing the changes in a ‘grown up body’.  For example if they notice a man with a beard or underarm hair, or a woman with ‘bumps on her chest’, use these as an opportunity to open the discussion around how we change and grow as we get older.

When appropriate, use the commonly used terms, for example ‘bumps’ might become breasts, and you can introduce the concept of puberty, particularly for kids of upper primary school age who might  already be noticing changes in their friends and classmates.

You know your child best, therefore you will need to make a judgement about whether advance discussion will increase or decrease anxiety around the changes - although do bear in mind the approximate age range for the commencement of puberty in order to help reduce uncertainty.  Girls, on average enter puberty around 11, with some starting as early as 8, and boys begin at around 12-13 years of age although as young as 91/2 is possible. Early onset puberty is an added challenge for any family but even more so if the child’s developmental age is not that of their peers.

As uncomfortable as discussions around puberty can be for any parent, in the case of children with ASD, it is essential the subject is addressed no later than the actual onset of the changes. For girls, it is when their breast buds begin to develop and for boys, it might be when they begin their growth spurt and appear to be all ‘arms and legs’.  Delaying the discussion any further may cause the child to think they are ill and add even more confusion and fear.

If your child is extremely literal, it’s important to highlight the changes that happen to girls but not boys, and to what extent.  It would be terrifying for a boy to think he would grow breasts for example.

A social story may well be the best way to demonstrate the changes puberty brings, and a personalised story for each of the changes can be the best way to address the different aspects growing into adulthood brings.

Autism Victoria has a fantastic fact sheet with strategies and resources and the following suggested list of topics for a social story.  Not all may be necessary depending on the way your child copes and changes, however this is a great resource for preparing your family and the child for what may be challenging times.

  • Breast development and widening of the hips (could be titled 'the shape of my body will change')
  • Pubic and underarm hair development (title 'extra hair will grow')
  • Onset of menstruation (title 'I will begin to have my period')
  • Growth acceleration (title 'I will get taller')

  • Growth acceleration (title 'I will get taller')
  • Pubic, underarm, and facial hair development (title 'extra hair will grow')
  • Testicular and penile enlargement (title 'my body will look different')
  • Spontaneous erections, sperm production, wet dreams (title 'body will do new things', or use simplified versions of these terms as titles)
  • Voice deepening (title 'my voice will sound different')

The issues around puberty are many and varied, not limited to physical changes as discussed here but also personality and emotions, awareness of the opposite sex and sexuality, hygiene and expectations from others as you ‘grow up’.

No parent or caregiver can predict how any person will respond to puberty, whether they have an ASD diagnosis or not.  Some kids may in fact breeze through some of the changes whilst struggling with areas you would not have expected.  Prior preparation and information will ease the anxiety for all, particularly the family or carer. Your local Autism support networks and information services will have resources and recommended reading available should you need extra assistance.

You can’t hold back the clock or prevent your child growing up, as much as you may like to, so it’s best you are as prepared as you can be.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Goodies Have Just Arrived?

As you know there is always something new arriving here at The Toy Bug. Take a look at some of the new arrivals which are here in time for Christmas. They make great stocking fillers, too.

This is colourful and fun.  Made of wood, it’s strong enough to take a good workout! This noughts and crosses games is great for teaching turn taking, logical thinking and fine motor skills. It comes with 5 red ladybug and 5 yellow bee game pieces and one wooden leaf board.

The leaf is divided into the nine boxes needed to play a game of noughts and crosses.

This game is such fun to play. It helps little ones with their hand eye coordination by providing objects for your child to pick up using the fishing rods.

The set is magnetic, so catching your fish is not too hard once you get the hang of the game. Why not see who can catch the most fish?

This set is easily stored as the fish pond comes in four easy to assemble pieces that can be disassembled at any time.

Not all games take place in the playroom…

Scrubby Ducky is a little silicone rubber yellow duck who just loves to paddle in the bath. He has soft yellow bristles underneath and is never happier than when he is brushing your skin clean. Ducky floats in the bath and he is easy for small hands to pick up and hold. 

Keep watching our What’s New section because new items arrive regularly.  There are only a few weeks left until Christmas so start your shopping now.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Movement And Motion For Children With Autism

Recent research in the US has confirmed what many parents have observed for years, that motion, cause and effect, repetitive and movement type toys and games are often preferred by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

When we think of sensory feedback in a ‘neurotypical’ world, the senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing are what spring to mind.  When it comes to children with autism spectrum disorder however, we need to consider the lesser known senses, the vestibular sense that helps us keep our balance and know where we are in space, and proprioception which has to do with the way our joints respond to movement and pressure.  This explains why adults and children with ASD as well as those without, enjoy such things as deep tissue massage and can be calmed by weighted blankets and the application of pressure.

Games and activities that offer a broad range of sensory feedback were preferred over all other types of play in the hands-on, museum based study, imaginative play being the least attractive to children with ASD.

Children with ASD often find repetition and sensory feedback soothing, and if they themselves cannot be moving, they enjoy watching moving objects.  Encouraging these kinds of activities in play, and by introducing toys that play to these strengths can encourage development and interaction as well as being a source of comfort.

Active play toys such as the See Saw and the Ball Chair are great for kids with energy to burn, who respond well to physical stimulation.  These toys provide different levels of feedback via sound, repetition and movement.

More passive children who prefer less active stimulation, or need some downtime, might enjoy the LED Mini Fan, which not only gives visual feedback via the lights and movement but also the feeling of air and cooling.  The Soothing Liquid Timer is a visual and calming toy that also provides a feeling of time and movement and time for self regulating emotions or actions for a child needing boundaries.

The Expandable Ball is a tactile toy that feeds the need for repetition and movement. It is a portable toy which does not require batteries or lots of space, and is a good option for a child’s bag.

One size never fits all in sensory play but at The Toy Bug we pride ourselves on researching and sourcing new products to help children with their development through play, visual stimulation, motion and movement.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It’s A-maze-ing

A maze is a clever way to help little ones develop fine motor skills while they play.

Let me show you some of our favourites.

Suitable for children aged 3 and over, the Jungle Animal Maze is made of wood.  It has animal heads which slide along cut out paths and children are asked to move each head through the maze until it reaches the right body.

Of course, it’s even more fun to create your own animals by putting the wrong head on each body!

At 29cm x 21cm x 2.5cm, this is a great size for small fingers.

The Magnetic Farm Animals maze is fun, too. The task is to fill the bellies of these hungry farm animals while matching colours, by using the attached magnetic wands.  Slide the wand over the acrylic cover to select one of the colourful balls and guide it into the matching animal's belly!

The Farm Maze puzzle is a new twist on the old favourite farm wooden puzzle.  Just glide the chunky pieces on the slotted tracks around the colourful, detailed wooden play board to find their proper places.  Can your child place all the animals in their right homes?

We have some wonderful maze puzzles to choose from so make sure you stop by for a browse. Remember Christmas isn't that far away and these would make great gifts for the kids. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What Is Happening For Our Autistic Teens?

The results from recent surveys in Australia show that the number of people with autism spectrum disorder has been constantly growing for the last 15 years. Nowadays 1 in 100 people under 18 is diagnosed with autism, which means that 230,000 people in Australia have the disorder. However, although the statistics are disturbing, recent research carried out by Aspect shows that not much is done for the personal development and realisation of people with autism.

The results of the research raise a number of questions about what will happen with the following generations of autistic Australians. One of the main problem for autistic teens is related to education – 70 out of the 100 surveyed adolescents with autism report that they are not receiving a proper education answering their needs. The main problem seems to be that tutors and teachers are not aware of the needs of autistic students, which results in the inability of the students to concentrate in class, to pay attention to the teachers and to understand them, to prepare for lessons and exams, to do their homework and to cope with the assignments in class.

Another aspect of the life of autistic teens in Australia appears to be loneliness and depression. The research shows that 69% of the teens feel lonely and almost the same per cent need more support when dealing with depression and stress. Their parents are of the same opinion; about half of the surveyed parents of teens with autism pointed out that their children need more support to deal with their mental conditions. A lot of attention should be paid to bullying and discrimination, too. According to the experts, children with autism are more likely to be bullied than those without the condition. It is really important to pay attention to the need for more ASD-friendly groups for sports and hobbies.

If we do not make more effort and take immediate measures for the well-being of autistic children and teens, their future is clear. Previous research by Aspect shows that only 54% from all fit-to-work autistic adults in Australia are in paid employment. On the other hand, the surveys show that teens with autism look for a job or study and want to become well-trained professionals. For now, given the current study and career support for ASD individuals, many of them are unlikely to succeed in continuing their education or starting work.

In short, while the number of people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Australia grows, not much is done to facilitate their lives and give them equal educational and career opportunities. If that doesn’t change, however, people with autism (currently about 230,000 in Australia) will be unable to find a suitable education course or even to graduate from high school, which lowers their chances to start a paid job and thus making it hard for them to lead a normal life.

We need to make ourselves heard on this issue for all our sakes.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Toy Bug - What’s New!

"When looking recently for a gift to give a child with Aspergers Syndrome I came across an online toy store that specialises in a range of sensory toys and games for children,

I was impressed with the large variety of choice. There is everything from arts and crafts, musical toys, active play, games and puzzles and everything in between. And if you simply can't decide then you can always give a gift voucher.

The first place I checked out was the ‘What’s New’ section of the site to see what was up and coming in the world of sensory play for kids. What fun it was to discover some really cool stuff and it was hard to decide, I wanted to order it all!

I was especially taken with ‘The Panicosaurus’, a fun, easy-to-read storybook that inspires and gently teaches children who experience anxiety on how to deal with their insecurities in a safe and easy to understand way.

Another item I thought was a great idea is the Train Floating Ball GameBlow through the wooden pipe and see how long you can float the ball or how high you can float the ball in the air - fun for all ages! Cheap enough to get for each of the kids.

You just can’t beat a Hacky Sack! I have wonderful memories of kicking them around on warm summer days at the beach over the school holidays. Hacky sacks are both fun and versatile - all you need is a little space and some clever feet. Such a fun and simple little ball, and so cheap. Get a bunch of them for the whole family to join in.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Rotary LED Ribbon Lamp, because my child's lava lamp night light recently gave up the ghost. This cool lamp with colourful ribbons and glitter that swirls around is the perfect replacement.

No matter what your budget or occasion you are certain to find something for everyone at The Toy Bug."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sensory Activities For The Holidays

Right from the beginning of life, in utero to birth and beyond, we develop and learn through sensory experiences.  Sound, touch, taste and smell are all important senses that help us evaluate the world around us, and our place within it.

Some of us struggle with this more than others, and engaging in specific sensory activities, such as music or art, can help connect us to what others perceive as normality.

Do you have a child with sensory issues, motor skills delay, or other learning differences?  Give your child the gift of connecting to others with specialised sensory activities, such as those found at The Toy Bug.

Many children are either over-stimulated or under-stimulated by one of their senses.  When these senses are not integrated properly, the world can be a scary place, especially during the holiday season such as Christmas.  With so many lights, sounds and people about, this time of year can be an anxious one for many.

Plan your holiday season early to avoid idle time with idle minds.

Have fun with a variety of sensory activities to keep the kids busy and engaged.  Great ideas can be simple ones such as these listed below.
  • Baking is great for developing taste and smell.
  • Arts and crafts are great for touch, sight and spatial development.
  • Music whether making it, listening to it or dancing to it; is perfect for sound, movement and spatial growth.
  • Head outside for active fun with balls, kites and play equipment which can help movement and balance.
"Although taking extra precautions with your 'sensational' child may lessen the number of meltdowns during the holidays, they may not be totally eliminated.  Watch for cues and remove your child from overwhelming situations whenever possible", suggests Roianne Ahn, PH.D., Psychologist in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

Above all, however, the holiday season should involve fun and lots of it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The View From A Wheelchair

Imagine if no one spoke to you directly, choosing to direct all questions and conversation at the people around you as if you didn’t exist, just because you were wearing black shoes? Or what if you couldn’t be included in the class photograph with all of your classmates and friends at school because you were wearing black shoes and couldn't fit on the podium?

This has nothing to do with black shoes obviously.

Sadly these are real and common examples of how people of all ages, but in particular children, are treated if they use a wheelchair for mobility.

There is a common misconception that because you rely on a mobility aid, in particular a wheelchair, then your intellectual and communication capacity must also be impaired. Add the ‘burden’ of youth or childhood to that scenario and you could be downright invisible.

So to add to the limitations of living at seat height and being unable to do simple things that most of us take for granted, like to stand and make eye contact to chat, or ask for assistance over a high counter, you are treated as a non person and talked about as though you are not even there.

It’s a pretty bleak picture, but it doesn’t need to be that way and by using a little common sense and understanding you can help break down the barriers for people of all ages who happen to use a wheelchair and make a lot of difference.

Don’t make assumptions about the person’s mobility or intellectual capacity. Speak to them as you would any other new person you meet, but don’t ask rude questions either!

Greet them as you would anybody else with a handshake and a smile. And for heaven’s sake don’t pat them on the head as one high profile politician did recently.

Don’t touch the person or the chair without permission. Would you touch any other stranger in such a way? The chair is an extension of their personal space. Try to get down to their level and make conversation at their eye height whenever possible.

Don’t stand too close in a group situation and block the person in the wheelchair from others in the conversation. Widen the circle and include them.

In a perfect world, any person in a wheelchair, regardless of their financial circumstances, could choose to have a standing wheelchair if they wish, allowing them to navigate the world at different heights depending on their activities. 

Perhaps that perfect world exists after 2018, when DisabilityCare Australia is expected to have been rolled out to all those eligible. At least it would be nice to think that one day this could be the case if they so choose!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How Does Our Sensory System Work?

We often talk about Sensory Processing Disorder but how often do we think about our senses and where they get their stimuli.

A sensory system is made up of sensory receptors, neural pathways and different sections of the brain involved in sensory perception. Commonly recognised sensory systems are those for vision, hearing, somatic sensation (touch), taste and olfaction (smell). Receptive fields have been identified for the visual system, auditory system and somatosensory system, so far.

Sensory processing is the ability to interpret the information the brain has received.

Throughout the day your brain is receiving information related to all the senses and its job is to work out which is important and which is not. The brain has a tough job to do and, depending on our emotions, our response to each of the stimuli can vary.

There is some excellent information in this clip entitled Sensory System which will help explain how the senses work and how to “make sense” of them. We hope it gives you some more insight into how and why your child reacts when his or her senses are triggered.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Words Can Hurt As Well As Sticks And Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a rhyme that many of us may have heard when we were children. Sadly, research shows that there is little truth to this rhyme, as name calling and other forms of bullying often result in negative effects for young children, teenagers, and even adults. The detrimental consequences of bullying are felt by both the victim of an act of bullying, as well as the perpetrator.  

Research currently shows that one in four children in Australia become victims of bullying, and victims can be as young as three years of age.  According to a recent article in the UK’s Birmingham Mail, research also shows that autistic children are more likely to be victims of bullying, and that this tendency to be bullied actually increases for autistic children as they grow older. Bullying can be an especially distressing event for children along the autism spectrum as well as their families.

Bullying is not just “empty and meaningless” words. Words can in fact have harmful short and long term effects. The effects of being bullied are devastating, as research also shows that bullied children are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression, are nine times more likely to contemplate suicide, and girls that are bullied as young children are especially likely to continue a pattern of victimization into adulthood.  

News reports from around the world are also often filled with stories about children or teenagers who have committed suicide after being bullied, but bullying is not confined to childhood, as it can happen in the workplace, and even adult friends and neighbours can bully other adults and even children.

The world was recently shocked by reports of a letter that an unidentified neighbour wrote to a lady who was caring for an autistic child calling him a “wild animal” and advising her that she should euthanise him because of his autism.

So, in a world where teasing and bullying are commonplace, how does one raise a child that is resilient to the effects of bullying, especially if one has a child with a disorder along the autism spectrum?

Get Involved – As a parent or primary caregiver you may already feel “involved” just dealing and coping with the day to day challenges of raising a child with autism, but it is imperative that you interact with your child’s teachers and others in the classroom to both educate them about autism as well as to be on the lookout for signs that your child is being bullied. This is true whether or not your child attends a “mainstream” school, or a school that is centred on the education of those with special needs.  

Seek Support – As awareness of autism spectrum disorders increases, local and regional support groups have been forming all across the globe that seek to provide a place for members to learn about autism, as well as to learn about coping strategies and to seek and provide emotional support for one another. These groups are invaluable to help members acquire the tools that they need to support one another in their efforts to raise their children.

Advocate – There are now several groups in Australia and across the world that are seeking to educate others about the real harm caused by bullying as well as to come together to work for positive change. Bullying No Way is just one of the many groups that have resources for parents, kids and others to come together to end bullying for all Australians. No Bullying is another group that can provide information about bullying and efforts to end this deadly practice. This site has information that is also especially for children and adults who have disabilities and are victims of bullying and other forms of discrimination. 

A greater awareness of the subject can go a long way in stopping bullying before it becomes a major problem in a child's life.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Waiting In Line

I am not a fan of standing in long queues no matter where I am but usually they are fairly orderly lines, made up of bored adults.

If we are bored, you can imagine how a child would feel after a few minutes. If the child has a sensory disorder standing in line is like torture. It’s not just the time spent waiting, which drags on and on and on… It’s the noise, the closeness to the people behind or in front of you, the bumping of others into their bodies and the pressure to stand there quietly while it’s all happening.

Waiting quietly in line is part of the normal school day so it’s something your child will have to cope with often.

Over at A Sensory Life you will find a fabulous sheet to print out and hand to your child’s teacher. It explains why your child has difficulty standing in line and offers some tips on how to make it easier for him or her to cope.

It’s a very useful tool to keep on hand and I encourage you to pop over and download your copy.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Shopping By Theme Makes Buying A Breeze

Shopping for kid's toys online is an easy and convenient option for sure. But it can become an arduous task trawling through pages and pages of toys, especially when you are not sure what you are looking for.

Have you ever sat at the computer, randomly scrolling pages up and down but just not landing on anything that grabs your attention? I call it stale searching, because without a specific idea of what you're looking for you can get stuck in a never ending circle of online shopping boredom.

If you have some idea of the toys your child loves you can break your shopping down into bite sized chunks…much easier to digest!

We want to make shopping easy for you so we offer the fantastic option to shop based on a theme. This makes it so easy to find the kind of toys you are looking for. You can shop for everything from dinosaurs, fairies and pirates to transport, space and sea life.

So if your little one is fascinated by insects, you can click the tab titled “insects/gardens” and it will bring up all the toys in this category. Here you can find ladybug jigsaws or the cutest wiggly worm grasping toy, great for building up bub's coordination.

Perhaps your daughter is obsessed with fairies. Check out the fairy themed category to find a special little wooden fairy bookmark. These make the cutest gift too.

What little girl doesn’t love horses? Just search by animal theme to find a creative horse stamp set. Or for the tiny space crusader in your house, try clicking on the space/robots theme for all things outer space.

So, once you have an idea of what a child is interested in, simply find the theme that relates and begin your journey to browsing the wonderful world of toys. You're sure to find what you need by shopping this way.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Support The Autism Awareness Campaign!

Whether or not you and your family have been touched by autism we ask you to consider supporting the Autism Awareness Campaign which is hoping to be noticed by the politicians during this year’s election campaign.

Back in March 2013, autism expert Dr Tony Attwood said ''A child diagnosed with apparently mild autism may have challenges that are profound to them.  If they are offered little or no support, there potentially could be tragic consequences.''

In May 2013, DSM-5 was introduced and the definitions of autism, aspergers and many other mental disorder conditions changed.  Now the number of people who will qualify as having ASD, and therefore qualifying for funding, has changed, too.  Some estimates suggest only 60% of people currently diagnosed with autism would meet the DSM-5 definition.

This election, speak up for all Australians with autism.  In all of the promises and spin over the next few weeks, it is crucial for them to make their voice heard.  We need to remind our politicians that 1 in 100 needs to be funded and it needs to be now!  Find out about their new campaign and how you can get involved.

Let's help them make their message heard by visiting the Autism Awareness website and spreading the word.  Anything you can do to bring this issue to the attention of our politicians and the policy-formulating advisors would be a great help.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

SPD – It’s All In The Brain

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is an often misunderstood disorder of the brain. With this condition, individuals have trouble receiving and/or processing the information that comes to their brain through their senses. This can lead to a variety of symptoms and delayed development in children, as this neuro-processing disorder affects their ability to focus as well as to experience and learn.

SPD is often untreated and unrecognised, or confused with other disorders such as autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While children with SPD may have autism and/or ADHD as well, many health professionals have suspected that it is a separate disorder, even though it does not have a separate diagnosis code or treatment guidelines in issues of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Due to the issues caused by the disorder and the lack of a clear diagnosis or treatment plan, many parents as well as health care professionals have been at a loss at how to diagnose or help children with this disorder. Often children with this disorder “fall through the cracks,” and suffer difficulties in school or other social settings due to this lack of understanding or treatment.

This may change after new research conducted by UC San Francisco in the United States, and published in NeuroImage:Clinical, an online journal. The research results have been widely reported in several blogs and publications, including the Sensory Spectrum Blog.

Basically the findings of this research seem to provide evidence that SPD is a separate and distinct condition from autism or ADHD with a biological basis stemming from anatomical irregularities in portions of the brain.
While more research is needed to further isolate the causes that lead to the development of this neurological disorder as well as to develop criteria for diagnosis and consistent standards for treatment, the study shows that in those that are afflicted, there are anatomical differences in the white matter areas of the brain. The white matter of the brain plays a critical role in learning, perception and thought.

Using a specialised form of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) known as Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), the brains of children afflicted with this disorder had white matter that appeared to be affected on a microstructural and bundled fibre level, with the central involvement of these tissue types occurring in the rear area of the brain. This is the area where the connections for the visual, tactile and auditory systems for sensory processing are located, as well as the connections for the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This is in stark contrast to either autism or ADHD, which typically involve areas of the brain in the frontal area.

Hopefully this research will encourage scientists and other healthcare professionals to conduct more research into this little understood disorder so that both parents and children can receive quicker diagnosis and clear treatment plans for an improved outlook.

Tell us, do you think there needs to be additional research and funding for this condition? 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Your Child’s Favourite Teacher May Soon be a Robot

Joint attention is a crucial social skill that children along the autism spectrum often have difficulty mastering. Joint attention is the ability for a child to share the same focus as another person.  This shared focus includes looking at the same item, and sharing the same intentions as the other person. The ability to master this skill has strong implications for language development, bonding and empathy for the autistic child.

In the past, learning this skill often meant hours of intense specialised and individualised instruction with the child and their teachers, parents and other caregivers.  Now, there is a new tool to help children along the autism spectrum to master this critically important skill – interactive robots.  Researchers at Vanderbilt University in the United States have developed a humanoid robot that can be programmed to instruct and adapt with children as they learn about and practice this skill.  In fact, research shows that children along the autism spectrum may be able to learn and practice this skill better with the robot than with a human counterpart.

This unique and exciting breakthrough was recently discussed in an article in the March edition of IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.  Building upon the success that researchers have made with using the robot to teach joint attention skill, the researchers plan to modify the robot’s programming to teach children additional skills such as role playing, sharing, and imitation learning. The researchers will then conduct studies to see if the robot is as successful at helping children to learn and practice these additional skills as it was in teaching joint attention.

While the researchers stress that the robot will never be able to take the place of human assessment and interaction with children, this robot does seem to be a promising tool that can help children acquire the skills that they need in a fun and stimulating way.

What do you think of the idea?  Will it work? 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Animal Quoits

What a great way to learn about distance and co-ordination all while having loads of fun. These animal quoits are really cute with their big, bright eyes and sweet faces. The set consists of 3 animal stands – a frog, bee and ladybug, and six rope rings.

To play the game your child throws the rings towards the stand with the aim of landing the ring right over the animals head. The child who lands most rings on the stand is the winner.

We don’t worry about who wins and who loses. We play just to see how many we can land around the stands. We start with the stands reasonably close and then gradually extend the distance. You can choose the distance to suit your child’s age and game experience.

While the weather is cool, this is a fun game to play indoors. As the weather warms you can take the game outdoors and enjoy the sun while you play. It’s a game that suits the whole family and is suitable for children aged 3 and up. The stands are 15cm high and the rope rings have an 11cm diameter.

The pack is presented in a wooden box which is perfect for storage and travel and which would make a fabulous gift.

Get your throwing hand ready!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New Free Online Video On Early Autism Recognition

Autism researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in the USA have announced the release of a free online video tutorial on early autism recognition.
The goal of the tutorial is to “improve recognition of the early signs of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in one-year-olds among pediatricians, parents and early intervention providers.”

The video is available on YouTube so that any parent can access the information but it is designed to educate doctors, too.  The signs of autism can be very difficult to spot, even for professionals, until the child is around two years old.  This clip shows what to look for – the warning signs – in children as young as one.

Remember that every child is different and just because your child shows one of these behaviours it does not mean that he or she is on the autism spectrum.

 “The nine-minute tutorial consists of six video clips comparing toddlers who show no signs of ASD to toddlers who show early signs of ASD.  Each video is presented with a voice-over explaining how the specific behaviors exhibited by the child, as they occur on screen, are either suggestive of ASD or typical child development.”

Here is the video clip.  I hope it’s helpful for you.  I’d love you to leave me a comment telling me what your thoughts are.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fun With Cellophane

I freely admit that this activity is as much for my amusement as yours because I love the colour and the feel of cellophane.  However playing with cellophane is also a fun sensory activity.

Cellophane is a wonderful, textural thing that feels smooth to the touch but changes as the paper is scrunched and rolled.  It has a great crackly sound as you squish it and it takes on a vivid colour when you hold it to the light. 

Here are some fun activities your child might enjoy and each involves cellophane.

Take a look at these colourful kites.  These are made with coloured tissue papers but can you imagine how vivid the colours would be if they used cellophane instead?  Follow the same technique and just add the cellophane and then stick them onto the windows where the light will shine through.

Make suncatchers.  The ones in this example created heart shapes but you can make whatever shape your child wants.  All it takes is some clear contact and some cut up squares of colourful cellophane.

If your child does not have a vision sensitivity, he or she might enjoy making some really cool and colourful sunglasses.  The frames can be cut out of cardstock and into any shape you can think of.  Some stickers and some cellophane and you are an instant rock star.

Finally, this activity is a little more complicated than the others but the results are fun and fabulous.  This uses blue cellophane, paper plates and some little craft items to create a porthole with an underwater view.  I love this one and I think your kids will, too.

These ideas might just keep your kids busy over the holidays and spark their creative brains as well. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Where To Go When You Need Help

Raising children can be difficult even in the best situation, as the regular passage of childhood often contains special stressors and other challenges. As parents who have children along the autism spectrum well know, childhood is a time of great change and development, which can be especially trying for their children and the family.

There are a number of community and government resources available throughout the country to help parents and caregivers receive the support that they need to help care for a child who has been diagnosed with a significant health issue or condition.
Whether you have a child on the autism spectrum or who has a learning disability, it is important that you know that there are several types of assistance available to you. Assistance is wide ranging and diverse and can include financial support to those with economic difficulties and social support from others who are going through a similar challenge.
The following are just a few of the many types of programs that are available.
My Time: has groups all across Australia that connect parents, grandparents and other carers so that they can support one another in their efforts to care for their children that suffer from a disease, disability or other serious health condition. Groups meet locally on a regular basis, and include a designated carer that will facilitate the children playing constructively while the parents and other primary carers have a chance to meet in person and share their stories, tips and advice for how to cope with the challenges that they face. This community resource is especially helpful to families with children along the autism spectrum.
Australian Government Support for Disability and Carers: the Australian government has several programs and resources for the parents and primary carers of children with serious diseases, disorders and disabilities. Support is wide ranging and includes anything from providing assistance with coping financially and mentally with the special challenges that carers face as they provide care and assistance to children with specific needs and challenges.
Specific Australian Government Support for Children Along the Autism Spectrum: is a great place to start your research if you are seeking help with caring for a child who is along the autism spectrum. This resource provides information and links to assistance that is available to families and other carers of children with autism spectrum disorders.
The Carer Adjustment Payment: provides information to parents and other carers that need financial assistance to care for their child who is under the age of 7 and also has a serious disease, disorder or disability.
State and Territory Carers Associations: provides information about resources available to carers throughout Australia, with links to contact information so that carers can receive local assistance and support.
If you are struggling with the care of your child, consider looking into these resources to ensure that you have all the help and assistance that you need.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Starry, Starry Night

Look what we’ve got!

I love this little egg-shaped object.  It’s actually a star projector and sound machine and I think it’s pretty cool.

Imagine lying in bed watching a galaxy of stars twinkling down at you.  It’s colourful to look at, too, but not so busy that your child won’t go to sleep.  In fact, the sounds that are inbuilt into the projector are soft and soothing.

Choose from 6 sounds of nature:
  • Babbling brook
  • Ocean surf
  • Falling rain
  • Birds singing by a creek
  • Summer night
  • Birds at dawn

If your child has a sound or music that he or she finds soothing you can plug in your MP3 using the cable that comes with it.  The projector serves as a speaker.

After half an hour the sound switches off but the stars keep twinkling.  What a peaceful way to go to sleep.

See it in action in the video below.

Welcome to The Toy Bug Blog!

Here you will find all sorts of useful information about The Toy Bug including sneak peeks at new products coming into the store, profiles on toys and information and stories about our Autism Journey.

We hope you'll check back often to see whats new :-)
Cheers Jo xo