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Finding that Perfect Gift for Children with Disabilities

Identifying toys that match the child’s interest as well as abilities is important, says an MU expert

December 9th, 2009

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430, BasiC@missouri.edu

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Shopping for the perfect gift can be a challenge, but finding a gift for a child with special needs doesn’t have to be.

According to Julie Brinkhoff, assistant director of the Great Plains ADA Center at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, children with disabilities enjoy the same type of toys, action figures and games as other children, but it is important to match children’s interests as well as their skills and abilities. The Great Plains ADA Center is part of the University of Missouri School of Health Professions.

“What could be more frustrating than getting a toy as a child and not being able to actually play with it?” Brinkhoff said. “It’s important to know the ability or developmental levels of the children in addition to their interests. There are a lot of options, but you need to know where to start.”

For example, a toy that makes a lot of noise may not be enjoyable for a deaf child, while a toy that flashes lights might provide a better alternative. Brinkhoff also suggests toys with larger controls or pull strings that are easier to manipulate for children with poor motor skills, so they are able to enjoy the experience.

“It’s also a good idea to ask the parents about their child,” Brinkoff said. “Sometimes therapists will suggest to parents certain types of toys that allow children to work on developing specific skills. For example, a young child working on gross motor skills might benefit from a set of large beads and string, while a child having difficulty with language development would benefit from certain types of interactive books or puzzles.”

Toys “R” Us issues an annual Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids that provides a selection of gifts that are fun and can be easily used by children with sensory, motor or cognitive disabilities. This guide is available in stores as well as online at www.toysrus.com/differentlyabled.

People looking for toys for children with disabilities may also visit www.ableplay.org, a Web site developed by the National Lekotek Center, which rates toys and provides information on toys that have been researched to meet the specific needs of children with disabilities. The Lekotek Center also provides a Toy Resource Helpline at 800-366-PLAY that can answer questions as well as a Web site: www.lekotek.org.

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