As holiday shopping begins, here are some quick tips to help friends and family members of children with developmental disabilities select the right toys for kids with special needs.
Many children with special needs have a cognitive disability, so the age range listed on a particular toy may not be suitable for them. A parent or other caregiver will know the child’s developmental age.
Remember that loud sounds and bright or flashing lights that delight one child can be distressing for another. Similarly, certain textures and scents can be comforting to some children but unpleasant to others.
Like typical children, those with special needs can benefit from toys that encourage them to use their fingers and hands in ways that build fine motor control. This can include building blocks, as well as arts and crafts, even simple musical instruments.
While independent play is important, many children with developmental disabilities, especially autism, struggle to develop social relationships. Toys that promote social interaction, such as board and card games, can help children engage with others and practice communication skills.
Children with developmental disabilities can be at greater risk for injury, so standard advice about toy safety may not be sufficient. When in doubt, ask the child’s parents if a particular toy is appropriate. The therapists working with the child can be a great resource as well.