Buying Holiday Toys for Children with Disabilities By John M. Williams
The Holiday season always brings smiles and a warm heart to me. People change during this time of the year. They are happier, and they want to be included in a variety of holiday activities such as caroling, partying and exchanging gifts. Parents, grandparents and siblings of children with disabilities want to ensure their family member with a disability is included in the spirit of giving and receiving. However, they become frustrated because they can’t find an appropriate gift for a child with a disability.
For about 12 years, scores of people contact me during this time and ask me where can they buy a gift for a special needs child. This year is no exception.
Mrs. Joan Edwards wanted a toy to help her seven-year-old son play hand games with his brother and sister. I suggested hand puppets. She visited http://www.flaghouse.com/itemdy00.asp?T1=38495 and later thanked me for the suggestion.
Canadian Jonathan Michael was looking for products involving sensory integration, movement, positioning, exercise and play. I told hi to visit http://www.abilitations.com. He called me back and said he ordered a catalog by calling 1- 800-850-8602.
I also suggested that Michael visit Dragon Fly Toys at http://www.dftoys.com. There he can find toys for children with special needs, targets skill sets, and he can do a search based on his daughter's developmental profile.
Nicholas Kent wants some electrical toys adapted for his 10-year-old son and so I told him to contact http://www.scienceshareware.com/toys.htm. Here's an engineer who will help adapt toys you already have.
When Thomas Franklin from Mississippi called and told he his needs for twin boys with disabilities, I offered suggestions, including LATAN (Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network) http://www.latan.org/facts/facts4.html/. LATAT provides a fact sheet on choosing appropriate toys for various skill sets.
One of the best resources is the National Lekotek Center http://www.lekotek.org/. The Center provides family play centers and toy lending libraries that give children with special needs access to play. Toys, books, and computer software and hardware are selected or adapted to fit the way their minds and bodies work.
Searchers can find even more adapted toy companies when you search for "adapted toys" on any search engine.
How large is the number of children with disabilities in the country? More than 6.2 million children live with disabilities, accounting for 13.2 percent of the child population.
Every day, parents ask professionals for advice on buying toys for their children. Often, shoppers are wary of buying toys for special needs children. However, selecting a toy for any child begins with two steps: first, learning what the child is interested in, and second, assessing his or her skill level. Let's Play: A Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs is a helpful educational tool designed to assist with this selection process.
With support from the Toy Industry Association, Inc.™ and its members, the Toy Industry Foundation™, in partnership with Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) and American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), has researched and tested hundreds of toys in an effort to offer you a comprehensive guide to the best toys for children of all ages with all types of special needs and interests. Toys included in this guide were tested by over 100 "toy experts"—children with a variety of special needs. ATA and AFB selected the featured products based on the toy's play value for children with special needs. Whether shopping for a three-year-old, visually impaired child or a ten-year-old with developmental disabilities, Let's Play is an excellent resource for finding the perfect toy.
Abbreviations Used in Let's Play: a Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs
For each toy included in the guide, you will find a description of the item, along with an explanation of skills that the toy will encourage and build during playtime. The age ranges indicated for each toy are assigned by the manufacturer based on a child with no special needs. Each toy contains one of the following labels to indicate who may find the toy most enjoyable:
PI physical impairment HI hearing impairment B blindness LV low vision DD developmental disabilities
Physical impairments include cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. Features to look for when selecting toys for children with a physical impairment include large parts that make a toy easy to grasp, and a sturdy base to secure a toy in its place.
While many toys are appropriate for children with hearing impairments, these toys included one or more of the following: lights or visual feedback, volume control, interesting texture or surface or some other unique feature that made it appropriate for a child with a hearing impairment.
Although children with visual impairments may enjoy many toys, these toys are rated particularly high because of their sounds and interesting textures or surfaces that provide sensory stimulation. Also, children with moderate visual impairments can enjoy toys that include bright lights.
Children with developmental disabilities include Down syndrome and autism. When selecting toys for children with these disabilities, look for products that encourage them to act out real life situations such as playing school, or interacting with action.