Holiday time is exciting for all children, and children with disabilities are no different. There are nearly six million children with disabilities (including 12.7% of school children) who will receive holiday gifts this season. Yet because gift givers are afraid of selecting the "wrong" toy, many children with disabilities find pajamas and socks wrapped up in those brightly-colored boxes - not the toy of their dreams.
The National Lekotek Center, the country’s preeminent source for information about adaptive toys and play, is dedicated to making play and learning accessible for children with disabilities. Last year, Lekotek developed the AblePlay toy rating system and Web site , which provides comprehensive information about toys for children with special needs so that parents, special educators, therapists and others can make the best choices for the children with disabilities in their lives.
Choosing toys for children with disabilities can be difficult. AblePlay's independent toy reviews and detailed information help you get "beyond the box" to understand each toy's unique features, creative ways each toy can be used with children with special needs and skills that will be enhanced as a result.Lekotek has affiliates in seven states across the United States— Illinois, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Please find the Lekotek program in your state by clicking here.
The National Lekotek Center recommends the following Top Ten Things to Consider When Buying Toys for Children with Disabilities:
- Multisensory appeal: Does the toy respond with lights, sounds or movement? Are there contrasting colors? Does it have a scent? Is there texture?
- Method of activation: Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? What is the force required to activate? What are the number and complexity of steps required to activate?
- Where will the toy be used: Can the toy be used in a variety of positions such as side-lying or on wheelchair tray? Will the toy be easy to store? Is there space in the home?
- Opportunities for success: Can play be open-ended with no definite right or wrong way? Is it adaptable to the child's individual style, ability and pace?
- Current popularity: Is it a toy almost any child would like? Does it tie in with other activities like TV, movies, books, clothing, etc?
- Self-expression: Does the toy allow for creativity, uniqueness and choice-making? Will it give the child experience with a variety of media?
- Adjustability: Does it have adjustable height, sound volume, speed, level of difficulty?
- Child's individual characteristics: Does the toy provide activities that reflect both developmental and chronological ages? Does it reflect the child's interests and age?
- Safety and durability: Consider the child's size and strength in relation to the toy's durability. Are the toy and its parts sized appropriately? Does the toy have moisture resistance? Can it be washed and cleaned?
- Potential for interaction: Will the child be an active participant during use? Will the toy encourage social engagement with others?
For additional information on toys, play and technology for children with disabilities, please call the Lekotek Toy Resource Helpline at 1-800-366-PLAY or visit their Web site.
Additional resources for finding adaptive toys:
Join the My Child Without Limits Support Community and discuss this article with other families of children with disabilities!