Choosing the Right Toy for Children with Special Needs
Choosing the right toy for a special needs child can be difficult; parents sometimes need extra help narrowing down a toy.
Special needs children have the same basic needs as other typical children. They are curious about their world. A special needs
child may require extra support based on their individual needs, but should not be treated as if they are different. 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. Choose a toy that is age appropriate and will inspire the child’s interest, creativity and exploration.

Special needs children should be given toys in which they are capable of achievement. They want to learn; and enjoy activities
such as going to the park, picture books, toys, and games. These children need to experience success and learn how to deal
with failures. Helping a child experience success through play has a significant influence on brain development. In fact,
researchers have found a direct link between brain function and the rising stress level caused by a losing during play and other
activities. Toys that are appropriate to a child's developmental stage and abilities help assure repeated successes, building brain
function as well as self-esteem.

Educational toys for children with special needs enhances a child's skills in sensory, motor, and cognitive development. All
special needs children can benefit greatly from toys for their therapeutic, educational, and entertainment values. Toys for special
needs children should be action-oriented, attracting the child to center their attention on it.

Special Needs Children and Play

For children with special needs, play is often not self-initiated. They need demonstration and encouragement, and some children
may have trouble choosing one toy from numerous. Children with cognitive problems do not have the same plan of action that
typically developing children do, so organizing themselves and their activities is more difficult.

When teaching special needs children how to play, one must not cross the fine line between demonstrating and dominating the
play. Adults provide the environment and the tools, but only the child can match the play to his/her skills and interests. Too
much adult interaction, particularly when the adult's idea of the desired outcome of that play is pressured on the child, it causes
stress levels to rise. Likewise, independent play can relieve anxiety and stress. So even if adults have a specific result in mind
for each toy, such as fitting a small cup into a larger one, that should not be the sole purpose of success in playing with that
toy. Play should focus on the process instead of the results. The joy of play has to be the exploration for special needs children.

Children with special needs include children of all abilities, cultures, races, and backgrounds. Like all children, they have
individual interests, likes, and dislikes. Some children with special needs have physical disabilities, speech or other
developmental delays, or difficulty interacting with other children or adults. The disability may be mild to moderate to severe in
range. Whatever the range, children with disabilities are more like other children than they are different; as they play, make
friends, feel happy or sad.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Children with autism often have a few unusual heightened skills, such as solving jigsaws, artistic drawings, incredible block
builders, and computer wizards. Toys for children with autism should stimulate all the senses. Autistic children enjoy listening
to music which offers auditory stimulation and picture books enhance visual thinking. Tactile toys expose children to a wide
variety of textures. These include sand and water tables, squish balls, Play-doh, and finger paints. For the development of gross
motor skills children should play with bouncing balls, pounding toys, riding toys, and swings. Toys for fine motor improvement
include puzzles, stacking toys, shape sorters, and lacing beads.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction

Children with sensory integration dysfunction experience problems with skills such as tying shoe laces or riding a bike can be
difficult as they involve sequences of movements. Activities to help in these areas may include swimming, construction toys
and building blocks. Hand and eye coordination can be improved with activities such as hitting a ball with a bat, popping
bubbles, and throwing and catching balls, beanbags and balloons. Difficulty with using both sides of the body together can
occur in some cases of sensory integration dysfunction. These children may benefit from hopscotch, skipping, playing musical
instruments, playing catch and bouncing balls.

Physical Disabilities

It's important for children with disabilities to frequently play, because physical disabilities can have a major impact on the motor
systems of an infant or toddler, limiting a child's ability to reach, sit, stand, or even move at all. When toy shopping for a child
with a physical disability, make sure the product is simple to use and provides a clear cause-effect relationship that the child can
see. It should have large buttons or other easy-to-use parts.

Hearing Impaired

Depending on whether they are totally deaf or hard of hearing, children with hearing impairments must be challenged to absorb
environmental information to fully enjoy their toys. So in picking toys for these children, make sure the volume can be amplified
if it's a product with a voice or generates noise. Both bright colors and
lights increase sight and other sensory stimulation. Textured toys are great for children with hearing loss because the feel of the
toy can heighten their appreciation.

Visual Impaired

Children with visual impairments enjoy toys that are simple to operate, produce familiar sounds, and have large, raised parts or
other tactile textures and shapes. Also great: toys that give off distinctive scents or provide auditory directions, vibrations, and
noises. Bright, bold colors are important for children who are partially
sighted. Visually impaired children enjoy playing cards with large numbers and letters.

Speech and Language Delays

Children with speech and language delays enjoy playing simple games such as itsy-bitsy-spider, peek-a-boo and patty-cake.
Read books appropriate to the child’s age and interests out loud. Sing to the child and provide him/her with music. Learning
new songs helps children learn new words, and use memory skills, listening skills, and expression of ideas with words. Blowing
bubbles can develop oral muscles, and toy telephones and pretend play encourage talking. Play with your child one-on-one, and
talk about the toys and games while you are playing.

Mentally Challenged

Mentally challenged children often enjoy activities involving sorting, counting, identifying, and planning. So toys that challenge
them to engage and think are ideal. Some toys to consider for cognitively challenged children are clay and Play Dough, bubbles
(to improve a child's visual pathway), finger-painting supplies, jumping games, ball games, cards, and play-fishing games.

When buying special needs toys

For children with special needs choose toys with care. Keep in mind the child’s age, interests and skill level. Look for quality
design and construction in all toys for all ages. Make sure that all directions or instructions are clear—to you and, when
appropriate, to the child. Plastic wrappings on toys should be discarded before they become dangerous playthings.

Toys for Children with Special Needs
When selecting a toy for a special needs child look for and regard age recommendations, such as “Not recommended for
children under three.” Look for other safety labels including: “Flame resistant” on fabric products and “Washable/hygienic
materials” on stuffed toys and dolls.
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