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Blog: Organizing For Special Needs
Toys for Children with Disabilities

As every disability is different, so is every child.

How do you decide which toys would be the best for your child?

As an organizer I see many cases where there are far too many toys for a child to enjoy.

Too many toys lead to confusion, messes, frustration, and unrealistic expectations for upkeep. If you yourself have problems with organization, think what it must be like for a child whose brain is still developing, who can't even begin to figure out a way to make their life simpler.

I have seen children with attention problems who are literally buried in the amount of toys they have. Their choices are too many and their environment is visually overwhelming.

We all want our kids to be happy.
Our kids will always choose the easy route until they learn the skills to cope with life and change. We may see this in their grasping to keep every toy they ever acquired, or in their staunch desire never to lose a game .

It is our job to "facilitate" their personal growth. How can we do that so that it is enjoyable for all?

How can we help our children grow both physically and emotionally and enjoy life?

We can provide enough challenge that the child feels proud of themselves, but no so much that they can't succeed.

We can provide toys and play opportunities that address more than one area of development. The child who only wants to kick a ball will need your love and attention to try a task that is not as easy for him. Use your creativity to make the learning fun. You might provide their favorite music or snack to make the activity a multi-sensory experience. Practice in a safe setting, so that when they are presented with harder activites out in the world, they will have some idea of what they are up against and how they might proceed. They trust you and want to please you.

Developmental growth includes:

Fine Motor Skills (putting coins in a piggy bank, Hi-Ho-Cherrio, pulling grey hairs out of mom's head)
Gross Motor Skills (rolling to hit a mobile,crawling through a tunnel, catching a ball, playing Mother May I ...)
Oral Motor, Sensory and Tactile play( blowing bubbles, licking a lollipop, feeling your face, mouthing or touching different textures, molding mashed potatoes into a volcano)
Communication and Language Development (books, stories, making choices, music, singing, and narrating your day)
Social Skills (taking turns, winning and losing, eye contact, empathy, good touch)
Cognitive skills (thinking and reasoning, matching games, UNO, educational games)
Visual Perceptual Skills( puzzles, hidden picture books, mazes, building games)

Self calming is a very important skill too. Kids can learn to count to 3, take a breath and hold their hands in front of their heart,or to know when to take a self imposed break.
Games can include those that make them move and then stop moving. This is more fun with others. They will learn about the different sensations in their body, and how they can learn to control it. This new learning is fun!

Provide opportunities for loving play where the child is allowed to win and lose.
Talk about feelings in a simple and age appropriate way.
Model behavior for your kids.
If you can show them how to be calm and accepting of something, they will learn this skill too.
It may take a lot of repetition and practice, but they will get it.

This isn't to say that you don't dislike losing, but that you can still thank people for playing with you.

Kids with disabilities need challenge and growth. They may often wish they were more like their peers. This is a process. Remember, they will be o.k., if you are o.k.

Whatever toys you choose, they will most benefit from your attention.

You can choose special toys, or you can choose existing toys and change the rules if needed.

Choose toys that you like, and wouldn't mind playing with along side them. Choose music that you could sing along to also. Show them that you're not afraid to touch the finger paint (even if you have to fake it a little bit, it will open up the world to them).

Kids with disabilities may not get to have all of the experiences at the same time other kids get to have them. If they don't get the chance to try new things now,they might really have a hard time later.

The possibilities are endless. Look to friends, other families, the internet, school staff and health care workers to get ideas. Take what you like, and leave the rest.

This is your life, so do what works best for you and your child.
You are unique and are finding your way together.

May your family have a season filled with love and laughter.

Lisa Alishio, COTA/L

Professional Organizer

Clarity Home Consulting

posted on: 11/28/2007 12:30:00 PM by Lisa Alishio
category: Special Populations

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Organizing For Special Needs

by Lisa Alishio

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About Lisa:

Lisa Alishio, COTA/L, is a professional organizer with a background in pediatric and adult occupational therapy. Her intention is to help people of all ages and abilities to "Live Well in their Home".

Lisa's Website:


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