As seen on Colorado’s Best on Channel 2 here in Denver this morning! Yes, I was extremely nervous as this was only my 3rd news-style segment and dozenth time in front of the camera in general. Thankfully I had been to the studio before with Chris (@TheToyGuy) with Time to Play. Every time he’s in town I try to shadow him or at least meet up so I can try to overcome this fear of the camera.
I ended up being not that nervous once it was time for my piece on special needs toys. I followed a urogynecologist, so in comparison, my job is easy.
So here is a little back story as to why I’m so passionate about special needs and 4 toys for a variety of ages that would be perfect for the holiday season, birthdays and beyond.
When my son was 18 months old, he was getting physical and occupational therapies for hypotonia, gross & fine motor delays and motor coordination disorder. He was later diagnosed with autism at age 3. One of the many therapists we saw suggested getting a “therapy swing” to help with things like strengthening his core, helping his vestibular system (essentially spacial awareness and balance) and after searching online I found these swings that were basically a strong fabric gathered at the top and secured with rope and a bracket. They were close to $200. Being a blogger and pretty internet savvy I went on a hunt to find this swing cheaper and a quick google search found me an almost identical item, at ikea, for $44. This got me thinking. What other toys and items that typical kids use, can I then use to help with Brady’s therapies? With the already astronomical cost of his medical care, we need to save money where we can. Over the past couple of years I’ve been able to use this knowledge to become the Special Needs Contributor for TimetoPlaymag.com which is a great resource for parents and kids to find out about any toy, not just ones for special needs.
Here are a few of the toys we use in his therapies that you might not think can be used for special needs.
Connect 4 – By Hasbro. Retails for $14.99 but often on sale around the holidays for under $10 at places like WalMart and Target. This game is great for a variety of special needs. When my son was only 2, we used the game to put the checkers in the top like coins in a slot. Great for fine motor skills, pincher grasp and hand-eye coordination. As my son has grown we use the game for matching, turn taking, AB patterns and counting.
Lego Duplo Read & Build Kits. Retail for $12 but again, often on sale at various retailers like Target and ToysRUs for around $10. This is by far my favorite tool to use in my son’s various therapies. They have one with farm animals, one with transportation and this one with bugs and caterpillars. The stories are simple and easy to follow along. Not too long for those with short attention spans. As you read you can build the animal or insect. Another fine motor skill builder but also a great way to learn colors, stacking, matching and following a sequence. I love these so much and talk them up to every therapist and special needs parent I know, that LEGO caught wind and donated a large box of these to some of the kids that our behavior therapist sees that couldn’t afford them.
Medical ID bracelet from HopePaige.com. These retail for $19.99 but can become invaluable. You can engrave your child’s medical
needs on the back. Ours at home says, “Autistic Non Verbal” and has my cell phone number in case he’s ever separated from me. You can have the bracelet engraved with any medical condition or important information. Safety is the number one priority and if the child is at school or apart from you, you can feel safe knowing you can still communicate with other adults and medical personnel. Those with Sensory issues or Tactile Defensiveness may not like the feel of the metal against the skin or the buckle. We actually put this around my son’s ankle over an athletic sock so it doesn’t bother him, yet it’s still on him if needed. We’ve even been known to attach it to a belt loop if he resisted. At HopePaige.com, they have a variety of colors and styles.
NBA Baller Beats by Majesco Entertainment can be found at www.nbaballerbeats.com for $59.99. This is for the xbox 360 with kinect. Finally a toy for older kids! Having an almost 5 year old, I often get asked about toys for the tweens and teens with special needs. This one may seem like “just a game” but it’s great for hand eye coordination, gross motor skills and more. You bounce the ball to the beat of the game, picking your music, skill level, etc. They teach you core basketball skills, but I’m just thrilled with a game that helps kids cross midline, learn a sequence and that can become more challenging as they improve and master a skill. Plus, I know a few adults who’d love to get in on the game.
disclosure: I was provided some of the items in this segment to use as props on Colorado’s Best. No monetary compensation was made for my opinions or appearance