Choosing Toys for Children With Special Needs

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Purchasing a toy for a child with special needs involves taking into consideration the child’s specific limitations, developmental level and/or needed adaptations. It is possible to give the child a gift that he or she can truly enjoy. Below are five tips relating to the human senses that are always important to remember when buying for a special needs child.

Sight: Depending on their needs, a particular child might not like bright toys that light up. It is even possible that some children may experience seizures when presented with flashing or blinking lights, like a strobe light.

Smell: Scented toys, markers or aromatherapy products can be calming or stimulating to children with special needs. It’s important to pay attention to how scents affect your child’s mood. It is also important to monitor children who put items in their mouth, as they may think that scented toys are food.

Hearing: Children may be sensitive to sound, so toys with different volume levels are generally a good option.

Taste: If a child is orally seeking, which means that they like to put things in their mouth, it may be dangerous for them to have toys with small pieces. There are many concerns that the child will try to chew on or eat the pieces, which obviously presents a choking hazard.

Touch: Certain children may be tactilely defensive, which means they don’t tolerate textures very well. This can be anything from tags in clothes to something sticky or slimy, even something very soft like velvet.

While it may seem like a daunting task to purchase something for a child with special needs, by taking the above tips into account you will have better luck getting something that the child will love.

Suellen Sharp is a registered occupational therapist, Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, Nationwide Children’s Hospital.