Friday, November 28, 2014

Toys for Children with Special Needs

The Christmas season is upon us, and the challenges of finding toys that are appropriate for offspring from tots to teens are complicated when there are special needs. Fortunately, there are many toys suitable for children with different types of disabilities. Here are a few suggestions, but remember to take into consideration developmental age as well as chronological age:

Sensory Needs and Fidgets:

  • Tangle (there are many types) and other fidgets
  • Specialty sand (Kinetic sand, or sand by Brookstone)
  • Building toys (Legos, blocks, Tinker Toys, etc. 
  • Games that involve manipulation of small objects
  • Maze toys 
  • Puzzles
  • 3D Feel and Find
  • Sensory balls (all types)
  • Boogie Board writing tablets
  • Balancing boards and balancing balls
  • Magnetic Mighty Mind
  • Bubbles 
  • Pop Toobs
  • Pop up tunnels & tents

Language Problems:

  • Sensory balls
  • Boogie Board writing tablets
  • Tobbles Neo
  • Toys that pop out balls
  • Peanut Ball
  • Specialty sand (Kinetic sand, or sand by Brookstone)
  • Books of interest (for language exposure)
  • Scoot-type riding toys
  • Jumping beans
  • Books with seek-and-find activities

Social Skills:

Fine Motor Delay:

  • Paper or wooden dolls to dress
  • Toys with small pieces to manipulate
  • Building sets
  • Hot Dots pen
  • Blocks
  • Boogie Board writing tablet
  • Craft sets, such as weaving, beading, or sewing 
  • Magformers building sets
  • Rainbow scratch paper
  • Basketball hoops and crayons for the bathtub
  • Juggle Bubbles
  • Pop Toobs
  • Oball Rainstick Rattle
  • Simple sports sets (bowling, T-ball, etc.)
  • Gyro wheel
  • Bean bag and other toss games
  • Trunk Show
  • Infinite Loop
  • Play Foam
Developmental Delay:
  • Matching games
  • Piano Mat
  • Lacing cards and beads
  • Plasma Car
  • Rush Hour Game
  • Puzzles with handles or large pieces
  • Bean bag and other toss games
  • V-Tech Laptop or other toys
  • Duplo and other building sets
  • Simple craft sets
  • The Gears! Gears! Gears! Lights & Action Building Set
Need more ideas? See the ToysRUs Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids, the guide at, and links on Assistive Technology Corner. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Holiday Tips for Children with Disabilities

Holidays can be stressful for all families, but changes in routine, contact with unfamiliar people, and altered diets can be especially hard on children with disabilities. Here are a few tips to lower everyone's stress level:

Did you know that the TSA has a page with information just for people with disabilities? For example, children with disabilities can be screened without being separated from their parents, and in a manner that best meets their needs. Medically required liquids (medications, breast milk, etc.) can be brought on board an aircraft, although they may be subject to additional screening. Those who have difficulty being touched can undergo a special pat down. Individuals who need special assistance can be provided with a passenger support specialist to provide help. For more information on other accommodations, go to

Preparation is key. Inform guests and relatives of the child's needs, including unusual behaviors or dietary needs. Teach your child who will be in attendance, including their names. Create a visual schedule of events and teach "party rules". You should also role-play typical scenarios such as greetings and how to accept a gift properly. Bring quiet activities to prevent meltdowns, and make sure there is a quiet place to de-stress or take a sensory or movement break. Try to keep to as much of a typical routine as you can. Some families choose to spend the holidays at home and choose to visit during a less busy time.

Part of the festivities is the opportunity to eat special foods. This can be a challenge for those with sensory food problems related to type or texture. You may want to have the child help select and prepare food, introduce new foods in a gradual manner, and use a schedule for behavior support.

Sometimes the child with special needs requires so much time and attention that the siblings may feel overlooked. Take some time to enjoy yourself with your loved ones, and have some well-earned relaxation.

What are your best holiday tips?