Finding Adaptive Toys for Special Needs Children
It's no secret that kids love toys. They see a new one on a television advertisement and tell their parents, "I want that!" If kids had their way, they would have every toy imaginable. Toys can be a great way for kids to use motor skills, to learn to play by themselves and to learn to share with others. But what happens when children do not have the required skills to play with their toys? Kids with special needs may not be able to play with many of the mainstream toys available. That's why there is a market for adaptive toys for special needs children.
- AblePlay - Play products for Children with Disabilities and Special Needs
This helpful website rates toys that are available for special needs children and divides the toys into categories according to physical, sensory, communicative and cognitive needs.
Finding the Right Toy
There are different adaptive toys available for different special needs. For example, a child with cerebral palsy who has poor motor skills might find switch-activated toys more helpful while a child with autism would do better with toys that promote sensory. Adaptive toys are usually made so that a special needs child can improve the skill that they are lacking.
When trying to find adaptive toys to suit your child's needs, it is also important to keep in mind age appropriateness and the ability for your child to reach developmental goals. It is important to talk to those who regularly work with your child, such as an occupational therapist, early interventionist, pediatrician or special education teacher. You don't want to get your child a toy that only causes frustration.
Some things to keep in mind when finding the right adaptive toy:
- Which of the five senses does it appeal to?
- Will the child be able to activate the toy?
- Where will the toy be used and will the child be able to use it in various positions? For example, in a wheelchair, stander or lying on the floor?
- Is the height of the toy or the volume on the toy adjustable?
- Will the toy allow the child to interact with others or allow the child to play on his/her own?
- Is it safe for that child's intellectual age, well constructed and durable?
- Is it appealing and interesting to the child?
- Is it right for the child's physical capabilities?
- Is it suited to the child's mental and social development?
The toy should not be fragile, breakable or contain any toxic materials.
Many special needs toys are switch-activated, meaning that a child simply presses a button to activate the toy. Some toys come with the special button installed but others you have to connect to a special switch. The button switches come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and textures. Besides switches that need to be pressed, they can also come as puff switches where the child puffs into a device to activate the toy. The puff switches are for those who are severely disabled and have very limited motor skills.
Companies Who Sell Adaptive Toys
There are many companies who make and sell adaptive toys. This website provides a comprehensive list of toy stores for children with special needs.
Adaptive Toys are Expensive
While parents of special needs children appreciate the availability of adaptive toys, they often share the complaint that they are too expensive. For example, an adaptive Tickle Me Elmo costs around $150, while the unadapted version costs $25. There are obvious reasons for the difference in price. Adaptive toys are not mass-produced and there is much more work that goes into making them.
There are a few ways to get around paying for the expensive toys.
- Make your own adaptive toys. Usually, any toy that runs on batteries can be adapted. There are many websites that contain instructions on how to adapt your own toys. This website is one of many that can take you through the steps to create your own adaptive toys.
- Sometimes there are state agencies through which the toys can be funded. It is a good idea to talk to your Disability Case Manager about such funding before going ahead and spending a lot of money. Also, some programs have toys that you can test to make sure it is a good fit for your child before you buy it.
- Even though adaptive toys are great, they are not a necessity. Its okay to buy "regular" toys for your special needs child but you have to be sure it will be a fun experience, not frustrating. There are a lot of educational toys such as those made by VTech or LeapFrog that can still be used by your child, though you may have to assist them in playing with it. Other toys that are great for special needs children include puzzles, building blocks, books and balls (again, you will probably have to assist your child in playing with these toys.)
Toys are for All Children
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when finding the perfect adaptive toy for your special needs child. Adaptive toys can be very fun and rewarding but at the same time, so can toys that don't need to be adapted. As long as the child is interested in and engages with their toy, they are learning and improving some skills they may lack. Toys are for all children, but you do have to be more selective when it comes to buying toys for your special needs child. When you do find that perfect toy for your special needs child, it can be an especially enjoyable experience.
More Special Needs Hubs
- How Assistive Technology Helps Students with Disabilities
For students with disabilities, assistive technology enables them to keep up with their classmates and to succeed in school. There is a variety of assistive technology available to help students with different kinds of special needs.
- The Importance of an Individual Education Plan for Special Needs Children
It is vital for parents and guardians of special needs children to understand the importance of having an individual education plan. An IEP ensures your special needs child will get an appropriate education in the public school system.