Halloween – it’s one of America’s favorite holidays. But for the one in six children with sensory integration issues, it can be a bit of a nightmare.
According to Connecting for Kids, “children who struggle with sensory issues have trouble processing information received through the senses.” Sensory challenges can show up as extreme sensitivities to sound, smell, taste, touch and visual stimulation. In other words, children with sensory integration may be disturbed by loud noises, odors, unfamiliar tastes, bright lights and clothing that irritates their skin.
The good news? Sensory issues don’t have to spoil Halloween. With thoughtful planning and creativity, it’s likely that every child in your household can enjoy this sweet and spooky holiday.
Here are some tips for a sensory-friendly Halloween.
1. Choose costumes carefully
If your child wants a store-bought costume, make sure they try it on in the store or at least several days before Halloween to ensure it’s comfortable. If possible, help your child to select a costume that has room to wear comfortable clothing underneath. If you make your child’s costume, choose fabric that you know will accommodate their sensory needs.
While precautions such as these will minimize trouble they’re not foolproof. Kids can be unpredictable. In the event your child changes their mind at the last minute, be flexible. Let your child trick-or-treat without a costume or have some dress-up alternatives prepared in advance.
2. Be aware of triggers
If you know your child tends to be fearful of spooky images, costumes or decorations, prepare them with books, social stories and pictures that show them that scary figures such as witches, ghosts and zombies are not real. If you live in a community where neighbors are receptive, ask them to avoid decorating with strobe lights and fog machines, or playing eerie music or shrill sound effects that may frighten children with sensory sensitivities. Likewise, noisy get-togethers with too many people can be overwhelming. Instead, trick-or-treat on a quiet block and limit your visits to neighbors and friends that your child knows and trusts.
3. Trick-or-treat before nightfall
Darkness can be frightening to children with sensory issues. Many communities have neighborhood trick-or-treating gatherings that take place before sundown. Take advantage of the daylight and limit the possibility of a meltdown.
4. Celebrate at home
If your child is uncomfortable trick-or-treating, organize some holiday activities at home. You might host a sensory friendly Halloween party for friends and family with activities such as candy corn sensory slime and Halloween shaving cream activities. You can serve Halloween treats (either candy or goodies that comply with your child’s special diet), dance to the “Monster Mash” or have a Halloween parade.
You can also watch a favorite fall-themed movie; have family game night; and answer the doorbell together. Being in a comfortable environment may allow your child to enjoy the evening.
5. Be mindful of other children with sensory concerns
Keep your own decorations tame, skip scary costumes and keep your front door well-lit so that trick-or-treaters aren’t frightened when they visit your home. Keep in mind that children may have good reasons why they’re not wearing costumes and don’t confront them if they trick-or-treat in their street clothes. Also, be mindful of non-verbal children who aren’t able to say “trick-or-treat.” Finally, have a healthy option for children on sensory diets.
6. Give yourchild and family permission to skip Halloween
Don’t despair if your child isn’t up for celebrating. Many children with sensory issues thrive on routine and Halloween calls for a change in plans. If your child doesn’t wish to participate this year let him know it isn’t the end of the world. He may be ready to give it a try next year.
Whether you’re starting in on some early holiday shopping, looking for a birthday gift or on the hunt for a “Just Because” gift, finding the right present for someone you love can be a challenge. When the person you’re shopping for has special needs, shopping for gifts is about more than just finding something they’ll like — it’s about finding a gift they can use and enjoy on their own regardless of their limitations.
Depending on their disability, people with special needs may require special switch-activated toys or activities. They may have sensory issues that limit what kinds of lights or noises they can enjoy in a toy. Or, they may be older and want to use the same electronics as their friends, but with modifications for their needs.
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would just find the perfect gift and write your name on the card? We can’t do the shopping for you, but if you’re looking for gift ideas for a loved one with special needs, then you’ve come to the right place!
Our ultimate gift guide for kids and adults with disabilities is designed to give you lots of ideas for finding the best gifts to give people with disabilities, as well as some tips for showering them with love and care during any special holiday or celebration!
Before we start in on specific suggestions, let’s take a few minutes to understand why purchasing the right toys for people with special needs is such a big deal. Although children and teens with disabilities can use some mainstream toys, those toys often are not naturally adapted to their needs. For example, battery-operated toys typically come with a small switch to activate them. A person with cerebral palsy or another physical limitation may not have the fine motor skills necessary to grip and move that tiny switch. For older teens and adults, a standard iPad may present a challenge because they can’t use the touch screen properly.
Another reason individuals with special needs may require different toys and electronics is because of the sensory issues they may have. Just as mainstream toys are designed to help children learn and grow, these individuals still need to learn and grow, but they need toys that take into account their struggles with paying attention, loud noises and bright lights. There’s just no point in giving a child a toy that’s going to cause them frustration or a meltdown because it’s too loud or they can’t use the switch.
In the past, mainstream toy manufacturers haven’t always produced toys to address certain physical and mental needs, so companies like Enabling Devices began making their own suitable alternatives. In many cases, their toys for special needs mimic those found in toy stores across the country. They are designed with special needs children and teens in mind, however, adapting them to use switches or large buttons where necessary and providing sensory experiences that help, rather than hinder, those with sensory sensitivities.
How to Find the Right Toy: Questions to Ask
Even when you’re looking at gifts specifically designed for individuals with special needs, it’s important to remember that not all toys are made for all types of needs. Consider the person you’re shopping for. What do they enjoy? What do they already have? What are their limitations or what accommodations do they need? Depending on your relationship with the person you’re shopping for, you may be able to narrow down gift options quickly. But if you’re struggling to find options, you can ask some questions to help you identify the right gift.
1. Is the Toy Right for Your Child’s Ability?
First, consider the child you’re shopping for. What you get a child on the autism spectrum may be different than what you buy for a teen wheelchair user. For example, a child on the autism spectrum may benefit from sensory toys designed to calm and soothe, while an individual with a physical disability may benefit more from a gadget designed to help make their world more accessible, such as a mount for their iPad.
2. Is It a Cognitive Development Toy?
Puzzles, board games, toys with simple instructions or repetitive actions will provide cognitive development opportunities for those who need them. If you’re shopping for an individual who has a physical disability but not a cognitive one, though, then a gift like this may not be the right one.
3. Will Your Child Be Able to Activate the Toy?
Consider how the toy works. Given your child’s ability, will they be able to activate it themself? If not, they may become frustrated and set the toy aside in favor of something they can operate. Switch-activated toys and gadgets are a great option if you are shopping for a gift for someone who cannot operate smaller switches.
4. Is It Physical?
Does the gift you’re considering require physical effort to use? If so, can the individual you’re purchasing it for operate it given their needs or limitations?
5. Do You Need a Switch Adaptor to Use It?
In some cases, an individual with special needs may not be able to operate mainstream toys because they cannot use the on-off switch that often accompanies battery-operated toys. Adapted toys allow special needs children to interact with these toys by giving them a button to press or other alternatives for operating the toy with the use of a switch. Some toys and gadgets come with a switch adaptor, while others may be modified to add one.
6. Will the Toy Allow Your Child to Interact With Others?
Among its many benefits, play allows children and adults of all abilities to interact with others. Educational toys for people with disabilities, as well as games, encourage interaction and communication with others. This interaction can be beneficial toward encouraging social interaction and development.
7. Is It an Individual Toy?
In some cases, children with sensory issues may benefit from toys and gifts that are calming and can be used alone, such as plush toys or fidget toys. In other cases, a child or teen may benefit from puzzles and games that help with cognitive development when there isn’t a parent, teacher or another child nearby to help.
8. Is It Safe for the Age or Ability?
In this case, buying a gift for a person with special needs is no different than buying a toy for any other child. Consider their age, but more importantly where they are in their development, to determine whether the gift you’re considering will be helpful or frustrating. For example, a young child likely won’t be able to understand board games, and a teen or adult may not enjoy a stuffed animal or toy designed for a younger person. If you’re not sure whether an item is developmentally appropriate, it’s always a good idea to consult their parent or caregiver to get their opinion before you buy.
9. Does It Appeal to Their Interests?
Special needs children and adults are individuals with unique interests and abilities. What appeals to one won’t necessarily appeal to another. Before you buy a gift, consider what you know about them. Do they enjoy sports? Music? Art? Computers? There are a wide variety of gift options for children and teens with special needs, each tailored to a variety of interests.
10. Is It Fragile?
Gifts that are fragile may be dropped and broken. It’s vital to make sure you purchase a quality product that will stand up to regular use.
Educational Toys and Guides
Play is how children learn about the world around them. It’s essential to both physical and mental development. This is no different for a child or teen with special needs. In fact, it can become even more important because of the ways it can help them cope with and adapt to their special needs or limitations.
Are there specific educational toys for different needs?
The short answer is: Yes!
Depending on the needs of the person you’re shopping for, certain toys can provide comfort, stimulation and even physical activity. For example, children on the autism spectrum often benefit from sensory toys that play soothing music, fidget toys or other tactile toys such as a sensory pillow or stuffed animal. A child with cerebral palsy, on the other hand, may benefit from toys that can be manipulated, such as kinetic sand, building or stacking sets or a set of basic musical instruments, such as one that includes percussion instruments like cymbals, a triangle and a tambourine.
If you’re looking for just the right gift, Enabling Devices offers a variety of toys, sold both individually and as bundles and educational classroom kits that make great gifts for children and teens of all ages and abilities. Some of our more popular options include:
1. Classroom Fidget Kit
The Classroom Fidget Kit is designed to help children with ADHD or on the autism spectrum control their impulses and soothe themselves in the classroom and at home. When they can control their impulses, it allows them to better focus and retain information, as well as self-soothe when they are overloaded because of a lot of noise and activity around them. Among the many items included in the kit are Sensory Stixx, Water Snakes, Squish Disks, Mini Koosh Balls and more, all inside of a carrying case.
Perfect for the creative child or teen in your life, the Creative Art Bundle is a great way to build an at-home art studio and enjoy hours of fun for children of all abilities. This bundle includes swirl art, battery-operated scissors and a motorized squiggle wiggle writer pen. The swirl art painting machine and the scissors are both switch-adapted as well. These pieces can all be purchased individually, but this kit combines these great products to provide a creative outlet for any artist!
3. Quick Start Communication Kit
Designed for students with basic communication challenges, the Quick Start Communication Kit combines Enabling Devices‘ most popular tools to help students become active and engaged in the classroom, even when they have communication challenges that might otherwise hinder social interaction. But don’t be fooled! This kit doesn’t just benefit students in the classroom. The skills it helps to build extend into the home as well.
4. Sensory Discrimination Kit
If you’re looking for a gift for a child whose special needs mean they need to develop their sensory awareness, the Sensory Discrimination Kit is a great option. The unit has eight separate compartments that contain samples of eight differently-textured materials. Users learn to distinguish between textures such as soft and hard, furry and fuzzy, bumpy and sparkly and smooth and scratchy. Great for evaluating sensory discrimination skills or for use in sensory integration therapy.
Best Presents for Wheelchair Users
Looking for the perfect presents for wheelchair users may at first seem to present a challenge, but provides a great opportunity to find heartfelt and useful items regardless of what special needs the recipient has.
But before you run out and buy the first device you see, take a few minutes to think about the person you’re buying for. What will help them achieve their goals? Do they need something that will help improve their ability to function in a classroom or social setting? Is there something that will allow them to participate in the same activities as their non-wheelchair bound peers?
Keeping the wheelchair comfortable and functional is important! Enabling Devices offers a variety of accessible wheelchair attachments, including the Easy Flex Mount, the Eye-Talk Bundle, the Clip Clamp, an iPad Mounting System and the Massaging Pillow. Each of these tools is designed to help wheelchair users perform daily tasks and maintain their comfort in their chair. Although each of them serves an exciting and unique purpose, part of the fun of choosing one of these as a gift is determining which attachment would be most beneficial to the person you’re buying it for. Their needs or limitations will determine how effective each item is, so before you buy it, stop and consider how it can and should be used.
Best Presents for Specific Needs
Depending on your relationship with the person you’re buying a gift for, you may already have an idea of what to purchase or you may not be sure where to start. As we’ve mentioned before, the gift you buy should reflect each individual’s needs and interests. However, there are some good gifts for children and adults with specific needs. Consider these suggestions if you’re not sure where to start looking!
1. Gift Ideas for Those With Cerebral Palsy
Wondering what to get a child with cerebral palsy? As with those on the autism spectrum, there is a wide range of needs and abilities you’ll encounter with those who have cerebral palsy. In most cases, you’ll be looking for a gift that helps them develop gross and fine motor skills, as well as their communication skills. It should also stimulate them intellectually. So what kinds of gifts will do all of those things?
Some great gifts for children with cerebral palsy include stacking or building toys, especially those with larger pieces or blocks. These can help an individual with cerebral palsy practice their fine motor skills but are still large enough that they’re easy to grip. Switch adapted games and toys are also a great option since physical limitations may prevent someone with cerebral palsy from being able to operate switches on mass-market toys. Enabling Devices even makes a variety of switch adapted art products for hours of creative play. Musical instruments or adapted electronics are also great options.
2. Gift Ideas for Those on the Autism Spectrum
When it comes to figuring out a gift for someone on the autism spectrum, it’s important to consider their developmental stage rather than their age alone. Think about their abilities and their limitations as you’re considering certain toys or gifts. As a general rule of thumb, soothing items such as weighted blankets, stuffed animals or a vibrating pillow can all be good options. If you’re looking for something they can play with, consider sensory toys such as a somatosensory tube, which emits soothing lights and vibrations.
Water beads, puzzles, light and movement projectors, ball pits and liquid motion toys are all other options when it comes to finding toys that encourage sensory stimulation while still providing a secure, calming experience.
3. Gift Ideas for Those With Visual Impairment
One of our most popular toys and learning tools, the Visually Impaired Activity Center has the same features as its original sibling, but its bright blue tactile plate, pull-ball and textured bright yellow oval plate make it accessible to users who are visually impaired. The Musical Light Box helps to teach visually impaired users to identify shapes and objects, practice writing skills and create arts and crafts.
Sensory Gifts for Special Needs
Those with sensory issues process sounds, smells, sights, tastes and touch differently. In some cases, they may be comforted by certain sounds, smells and sights. In fact, kids with sensory issues tend to gravitate toward things they can touch and “fidget” with because the repetitive motions of touching, stroking or squeezing something help them to self-regulate and soothe when they’re otherwise unable to focus or stay calm.
In other cases, these same sensory experiences make invoke feelings of agitation or fear and cause meltdowns or tantrums, especially in the case of loud noises, harsh smells or bright lights. When it comes to sensory gifts for people with disabilities, there are several different directions you can take.
1. Calming Lights
Enabling Devices offers a variety of calming lights to be used on their own or included in a home or school sensory space. Depending on your child’s needs, they can provide a sense of calm or they can provide needed stimulation. Among our favorites are the LED Light Illuminators, which can be programmed to cycle through all the colors in the rainbow. The great thing about these lights is that you can adjust the level of brightness they project, as well as the speed at which they cycle through the colors.
2. Cosmic Liquid Tiles
Enabling Devices Cosmic Liquid Tiles encourages the improvement of gross motor skills. It also provides children with sensory issues with the opportunity to step, jump, dance or hop in the security of their own home. It’s also a great way to encourage physical activity in a child who is unable or unwilling to spend much time outside.
3. Sensory Exploration Tent
This isn’t your average camping tent! The Sensory Exploration Tent is designed to provide positive sensory experiences in a safe, relaxing environment. The tent comes as part of a set that includes a weighted blanket, learning lamp, Gel lap pad and a variety of other soothing sensory items. The tent also has two openings, as well as a roof-top easy view screen that allows parents and caregivers to keep an eye on the child playing and relaxing inside.
Why Puzzles Are Good for All
These days, puzzles aren’t just a box full of flat cardboard pieces waiting to be joined together. Enabling Devices offers a variety of puzzles designed for individuals with a variety of special needs. But why are puzzles such a great gift? Puzzles can help promote interactive learning, development of fine motor skills and even provide multi-sensory experiences. How is that possible? Puzzles can help children and teens with:
Depending on the type of puzzle, the person putting it together — or taking it apart — will be required to sort pieces by color, shape and touch.
2. Attention Span
Putting together puzzles can help children on the autism spectrum practice devoting their attention and focus on a specific topic or activity. Over time, as they begin to cultivate the ability to focus on one thing, they can attempt increasingly challenging puzzles.
3. Memory Improvement
Think of a puzzle as a tangible way to watch someone exercise their brain. As children learn to pay attention to what’s in front of them, they’ll begin to be able to focus on other things as well. Over time, they will learn to hear what their teacher is saying and retain the information for later.
Piecing together a puzzle is also a great way to help children of all ages and abilities practice their problem-solving skills. There is a lot of deductive reasoning that goes on when a person has to put something back together. They have to follow clues and certain steps to arrive at the right answer — the completed puzzle — and they have to know how to backtrack or troubleshoot when they encounter obstacles. Puzzles provide a low-key, safe way to practice these skills they’ll need to function in school, work and the world around them.
It feels good when you see a completed puzzle. Regardless of what kind of puzzle it is or the skill level it requires, viewing a completed puzzle provides a sense of self-worth and accomplishment that makes children and teens feel good about themselves. And when they feel good about themselves, they’ll feel more confident and able to handle other challenges they’re facing.
Visual and Light Toy Gifts
Visual and light toy gifts can be stimulating or calming — depending on the toy or item you’re considering. In some cases, soothing lights and lamps can create a calm atmosphere. They can be used in a sensory room or any space that is used to calm children or adults with sensory issues. Why does light have a calming effect? Soft lights in a variety of colors are soothing. If you have a child on the autism spectrum or who has other sensory needs, lights can help them through a meltdown or to decompress after being in a situation that left them feeling overloaded. Certain types of lamps can emit light in a rhythmic motion and this motion can also add to the calm.
In other cases, lights can be used in sensory stimulation exercises designed to increase attention span, decrease boredom or practice a variety of motor skills. Among the visual and light toy gifts Enabling Devices sells, consider some of these favorite options:
The Disco Ball projects a kaleidoscope of colors on the wall or ceiling. It has a variety of uses, depending on the needs of the child or adult using it. It can provide a calming effect because of the soft lights it produces, or, it can be used to help with increasing attention and color recognition.
The Fiber Optic Sensory Light is another great addition to any sensory space. The switch-activated sensory light alternates between five different colors that cycle through the color-changing crystals in the base and up through the fiber optic spray at the top. This relaxing light can create a calming effect in any room, but it’s also a great tool for improving visual attention and teaching cause and effect.
If you’re looking for a light toy or visual gift, consider the Illuminated Jellyfish Mood Lamp. When you turn it on, incredibly lifelike jellyfish float and sway to the motion of the water inside. Besides providing calming lights and something interesting to look at, this lamp is designed to increase visual attention and teach cause and effect.
Communication Devices — also known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices — are designed to help individuals express themselves in ways that don’t rely on verbal communication. There are a wide variety of devices available for all levels of needs, and they can be a great gift idea for speech or non-voice communicators.
Beginning communicators will enjoy telling jokes, greeting friends or singing songs with the simple, easy-to-use Big Talk communicator, while more advanced communicators will find new ways to express themselves with the Cheap Talk 8 – 6-Levels. This best-selling communicator has space to record 48 five-second messages on six levels. For those with verbal and visual limitations, the Adjustable Angle Sequencer w/ Switch offers 300 seconds of recording time, as well as a large switch identified by a set of LED lights at the center.
The Best Soft and Cuddly Toys for Special Needs
Plush toys are a great option for children and teens with special needs because they provide somatosensory stimulation. What does that mean? The somatosensory system is the body’s sensory system that registers touch — pressure, pain, vibration, temperature and movement. Because these are all neurological impulses, in some cases, individuals may struggle with an oversensitivity or difficulty regulating these impulses. Having something soft and cuddly to hold is comforting, but the vibrations that they emit can also provide stimulation and relaxation when it’s needed most.
Some of Enabling Devices’ most beloved cuddly toys include the Vibrating Rabbit and Floppy Bunny. Just activate your capability switch, and Floppy hops and wiggles his nose. These plush toys are designed to improve tactile awareness and increase sensory stimulation, but they also serve to provide comfort and companionship to their owner.
Art Toys and Gifts
Art transcends age, stage and a variety of interests and abilities. It is a wonderful way for people to express themselves. It provides a creative and therapeutic outlet, as well as numerous educational opportunities.
If you’re looking for toys and gifts to ignite the spark of creativity or fan the flame, consider Enabling Devices’ Musical Swirl Art kit. Just pour the paint into the spinner, insert a piece of paper, and then activate your switch and watch as beautiful painted patterns and designs come to life before your eyes! While the machine is swirling the paint, it also plays music and multi-colored blinking lights to inspire artists and maintain the focus of the artist at work. If you’re looking for a practical benefit to this gift, it’s a great way to improve color recognition and listening skills!
Gifts for the Music Lover
Music can be a fun and soothing experience for those with special needs, so gift your loved one their very own musical toy!
Make all their favorite sounds accessible with the CD Boom Box, a switch-adapted device equipped with a CD player, AM/FM radio and cassette recorder. If music performance is their thing, give them the Music Machine Set. This four-instrument set produces great sounds, providing hours of entertainment!
If your loved one has an iPad, consider gifting them with some accessories to make listening to their favorite tunes easier than ever! Choose an iPad stylus designed to help make musical selections with your head, hand or mouth, or gift them with one of our iPad mounts that holds their technology right where they need it.
For younger children who may not be ready for a stereo or other electronic device, consider the B Woofer Guitar. Choose from several types of guitars and hear nearly 30 different tunes with this fun toy. This switch-adapted toy also offers eight different chord options so little musicians can make their own music when they’re done listening to music from others!
Everyone can rock out with Band Jam, the battery-operated drum set that features the sounds of five different percussion instruments, as well as flashing LED lights. This is a great way for your little musician to explore and learn about musical instruments, as well as develop their appreciation for the music around them.
Shop With Enabling Devices
When it comes to shopping for gifts for children and adults with disabilities, it’s important to stop and think about their unique personality and interests, as well as their own special needs. If you aren’t sure what kind of gift they’d appreciate, there’s no shame in asking them — or their parent — for some guidance or suggestions. If you’re still not sure how to select the right gift for that special person in your life, let Enabling Devices help.
Our goal is to develop and promote products that help children and adults with special needs lead joyful, fulfilling lives. We never want to see someone miss out just because they didn’t know a certain product existed. We want to get those products into the hands of the people who need them the most.
If you’re looking for gift ideas, then look no further than Enabling Devices. Our wide selection of products offers something for everyone, and it’s sure to make your holiday shopping easier than ever! Browse our online store or contact us today to start shopping!
With Turkey Day in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead to that time-honored tradition — shopping for holiday gifts, of course!
In years past, we’ve written about why doing your holiday shopping online can save time, energy and sanity! This year, you can add health to the list. With Enabling Devices’ website and digital catalog, you can find everything you need for that special someone while staying safely socially distanced. Not sure what to gift? Here are some suggestions:
1. For the Techie
Consider an iPad Wireless Switch (#1164). This switch, which comes in two styles—one switch or two switches—will provide access to hundreds of compatible apps. Works through Bluetooth 4.0 for simple pairing and has a range of over 50 feet. It also works as a regular capability switch for other switch-adapted products.
2. For the Music Lover
Our Band Jam (#1115) has everything a musician needs for a rocking rhythm section. This compact set plays the sounds of a tambourine, triangle, drum, cymbal or maraca with the touch of one of its five buttons.
3. For the Visual Artist
Color her world with our adapted Swirl Art spinner (#380). Terrific for encouraging color recognition, and increasing visual attention, the spinner comes with 12 paints in 6 colors, 30 sheets of paper, and a splash guard to keep your workspace tidy.
4. For the Communicator
If your loved one has a lot to say, give him the gift of language with our 4-Level Communication Builder (#7077W). Equipped with five interchangeable frames, this progressive communication device keeps pace with the user’s growing language skills.
7. For the Gadget Guy
Gardening is so much easier with our Adapted Garden Spray (#9083). Likewise, cooking is more appetizing with a set of adapted Pouring Cups (#20W). And the Vibrating Personal Pager (#8001A) makes a great gift for the hearing and hearing impaired person in your life.
8. For the Home Bodies
Weighted products are all the rage these days. Kids will love our Zoo Weighted Blanket (#3992) with cute pictures of zoo animals, and our weighted Gel Lap Pad (#3142) full of squishy sparkling gel. Especially for the holiday season, Zoo Weighted Blankets are on sale through Dec. 31.
9. For the Plush Toy Collector
Our Whimsical Buddies Bundle (#4099) aren’t just cuddly; they also light up and play soothing songs and sounds. The youngest folks on your holiday list will love ABC Elmo (#2135). On sale through New Year’s Eve, everybody’s favorite Muppet teaches little ones their ABCs.
10. For the Holiday Lover
Our Holiday Bundles (#9335S/9336S) will light up the holiday season! Choose from Rockin’ Robbie the singing Christmas tree or Rock & Roll Rider Reindeer and get ready to celebrate! Both come with a glittery holiday gumball switch in our special bundle offer. See our holiday toys in action on our website!
There’s no getting around it. This year, Thanksgiving will be different. With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing across the country, most people will be staying close to home this holiday season. Yet, that doesn’t mean Thanksgiving can’t be special. Thanks to Zoom, the widely-used video communication platform, one of America’s most cherished holidays is still something worth celebrating. And more good news: This Thanksgiving, Zoom will rescind its usual 40-minute limit for free calls. You can party for as long as you like at no charge whatsoever!
1. Zoom Get-togethers
Though we can’t congregate in big groups this Thanksgiving, Zoom celebrations are the next best thing. In years past, many of our holiday posts have discussed techniques for making travel and social gatherings less stressful for families living with disability. Many of these holiday stressors are eliminated with a Zoom celebration. There are no worries about long flights or car rides; no concerns that your child will act out, become over-stimulated or find nothing to eat at a relative’s home. Your child can come in and out of the family Zoom party as often as she pleases, taking breaks whenever she needs them.
2. Food Doorsteps Exchange
Before you start bemoaning the fact that you won’t be able to enjoy Aunt Joan’s famous pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, CJ Robles of Tech Times encourages you to consider a food doorsteps exchange. “For extended families and friends living within a close distance, assign a Thanksgiving recipe for each household through email or messaging app. Then, each family shares portions for all households and delivers them at their doorsteps at a set drop-off schedule. While you would only cook one dish, you will have several dishes to eat at supper.” Ta da! Problem solved!
3. Zoom Games
Before and after Turkey time, try playing a game over Zoom. Enabling Devices’ adaptive Monopoly Junior,Hi Ho Cherry-O, and Bingo are all translatable to Zoom and provide hours of fun. Or, play a trivia game using an online idea generator to provide challenging questions. CNN recommends sending “family members on scavenger hunts around their respective houses for specific (and Thanksgiving-themed) items.” Report back to extended family members on what you’ve found.
4. Zoom Concerts and Singalongs
Zoom is a great way to share music with family and friends. As Robles suggests: “Each household can pick a song to play or sing with the family while others can join in the middle of the performance.” Check out Enabling Devices’ adaptive musical instruments such as its musical cymbal, drum, and band set. Now the whole extended family can chime in.
5. Zoom Art Projects
Create a Thanksgiving-themed work of art from your respective homes. After everyone has completed their projects, play Zoom show and tell. Enabling Devices’ Adapted Color Spin-out and Adapted Battery Operated Scissors make it easy for everyone to participate.
6. Virtual Story-telling
Chose one or more story-tellers from participating families to read a holiday-inspired book, tell a story from their own life, or spin a tale on the fly. Alternatively, families can create a story together by giving each member a chance to add on.
7. Share Your Gratitude Lists
Many families share gratitude lists around their Thanksgiving tables. Though we may be seated in different homes, we can still share our gratitude with loved ones.
It’s “Nutcracker season” — the time of the year when ballet companies around the world entertain audiences with performances of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classic Christmas ballet, “The Nutcracker.”
First performed in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, “The Nutcracker” didn’t become a holiday custom in the United States until the mid-20th century. The two-act ballet tells the story of a young girl and her favorite Christmas gift — a nutcracker who comes to life on Christmas Eve.
This season, the elite, Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet’s “Nutcracker” will include roles for Emma Lookatch and Larke Johnson, two young dancers with cerebral palsy, from the Joffrey’s adaptive dance program. The program serves students with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, down syndrome and other disabilities.
The inclusion of a dancer with a disability isn’t really new to the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker.” The company’s former artistic director Gerald Arpino first created a role for a dancer with a disability in 1997 after 8-year-old Stephen Hiatt-Leonard, who has cerebral palsy, auditioned for the ballet’s children’s cast.
Emma and Larke aren’t really new to “The Nutcracker” either. Both danced in the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker” production in 2015 — the last year that the Joffrey performed company founder Robert Joffrey’s version of “The Nutcracker.”
In 2016, the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker” was re-envisioned by Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. Wheeldon’s version is set at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair), twenty years after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Wheeldon’s “Nutcracker” also portrays a family and community markedly different than the ones in the traditional “Nutcracker.”
As described by WTTW’s Hedy Weiss: “… rather than focusing on the Christmas celebrations of the usual well-to-do family historically at the ballet’s center (whether set in Europe or, as in the long-lived version by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, in an upscale Victorian-era New York household), it focused on the community of cash-strapped immigrant artisans and laborers who lived and worked in the shadow of the fair.”
Emma and Larke will share the role of “Worker Girl,” a character who appears in Act 1 during the ballet’s iconic Christmas Eve party scene. The teens will dance in a late nineteenth century-era wheelchair.
Suzanne Lopez, who danced in Robert Joffrey’s version of “The Nutcracker” for 20 years, is now in charge of “The Nutcracker’s” children’s cast. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune recently, Lopez said Wheeldon “absolutely loved the idea [of bringing in dancers from the adaptive dance program] and thought it was a lovely way to honor the legacy of Joffrey and Arpino. … Also,” added Lopez, “this particular version of ‘The Nutcracker’ is so much about community. What better representation than that, that people come to the theater and look up on stage and everybody feels represented?”
It’s taken months, but you’ve finally gotten your special needs child into a healthy routine. Now that she’s on a regular sleep schedule and eating a healthy diet, you’re actually seeing positive results! Yet, as the holidays approach, you fear she’ll be unable to sustain all the progress. How can you, your child and the rest of the family enjoy holiday festivities without throwing away all the gains your child has made? We’ve gathered some tips to minimize the backsliding and maximize the joys of the season.
Prepare your child
Children with special needs — especially those on the autism spectrum — thrive on routine and may find change extremely disruptive. You can minimize negative responses to unfamiliar events or schedule changes by preparing your child in advance. The Autism Awareness Centre recommends using a visual calendar with pictures that explain upcoming activities, or creating a social story that tells your child what to expect. In both cases, make sure to review calendars and social stories with your child and address any concerns ahead of time.
Sleep is sacred!
No one’s at their best when they don’t get sufficient sleep, especially children with special needs. During the holidays, sleep schedules frequently fall by the wayside. But even if your child’s bedtime is later than usual, preserve pre-bedtime rituals like bathing and story-telling. You can also try building in time for extra sleep by providing naps for little ones or allowing older children to sleep later than usual. According to sleep.org, children 1-2 years old require 11-14 hours of sleep per night; ages 3-5 need 10-13 hours; and ages 6-13 need 9-11 hours.
Limit sugary foods
As we all know, holiday treats are almost impossible to avoid. Indeed, they’re part of the holiday experience for many of us. Forbidding your child to indulge in any of these delectable goodies is likely to backfire. So, unless he has a life-threatening food allergy or maintains a special diet, decide on limits around sugar intake, and be prepared to enforce them.
Uphold your child’s special diet
If your child has food allergies or is on a gluten or casein free diet, help him stick to it, by offering special gluten and casein-free treats. These days, there are many books and online resources that specialize in these diets. One online resource is Rachael Roehmholdt’s 100 Holiday Gluten-free, Dairy-free Recipes. Additionally, don’t assume that holiday hosts will have gluten and casein-free foods on hand. Instead, come prepared with foods your child can eat. Similarly, if your child is a picky eater, don’t force her to try unfamiliar foods at a holiday event. Play it safe by packing her favorite foods and allowing her to eat them while the rest of the family enjoys traditional holiday fare.
Don’t come hungry
We’re often told to “bring our appetites” to holiday get-togethers. But bringing a hangry child to a social event can be unpleasant for everyone. Always carry healthy snacks to ensure that your child’s behavior isn’t compromised by a lack of food.
Encourage physical activity
Eating tons of sugar and being physically inactive are a recipe for disaster for many children. Be sure to find time to get children outside for some fresh air and exercise. Wheelchair users can benefit from tossing a ball or participating in a wheelchair race. If you’re traveling and staying in a hotel, consider booking one with a swimming pool. Taking a pool break with the kids can improve everyone’s mood and minimize the negative effects of overindulging.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Enabling Devices!
According to the Automobile Association of America (AAA), more than 55 million people will be traveling this Thanksgiving. In fact, AAA reports that Thanksgiving 2019 “will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000.”
Holiday travel isn’t easy under any circumstances and traveling with kids makes it more challenging. When your child has a disability, it can be even more difficult. We’ve compiled the following list of holiday travel tips that will minimize your stress. Here’s wishing you and yours a safe, happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
Do some research
If you’re traveling by car, educate yourself about the best places to stop for bathroom and food breaks. This is especially important if your child uses a wheelchair. If your child is medically fragile, find out about hospitals, pharmacies and clinics near your destination to be prepared should any unexpected problems arise.
TSA (Transportation Security Administration) offers passenger support for travelers with disabilities. To have all your concerns addressed before flying, contact TSA Cares at least 72 hours before your flight. You can also request a TSA Passenger Support Specialist if you encounter any difficulties at the airport.
Consider travel insurance
Though travel insurance adds to the significant expense of flying, it may be worth the investment, especially when traveling with medically fragile children. Hopefully, you will not need to use it but you’ll be grateful that you have it should you need to cancel your trip.
Pack your carry-on bag carefully
Make sure to pack your child’s favorite stuffed animal or blanket, books, coloring supplies or anything that will keep your child occupied and calm during long waits in airports or on trains and buses. Bring healthy snacks and drinks and don’t forget to pack an extra change of clothes and extra medication. If you’re driving, consider suspending any screen-time rules and allow children to use iPads to play games or watch movies. We’re in survival mode here!
Prepare your child for security protocols
If your child is on the autism spectrum, or simply anxious about new or unexpected situations, discuss airport security processes in advance. You might also create a social story to help your child understand what to expect at the airport.
Check out airport resources
In recent years, some airports have added sensory rooms where people with disabilities and all stressed out travelers can enjoy some relaxation in between flights. See this recent Enabling Devices’ blogpost for more information.
Alert hosts to your child’s special needs
Whether you’re visiting friends, family or staying at a hotel, letting your hosts know about your child’s needs before you arrive can make everyone more comfortable. For more hints about lessening stress around holiday gatherings, check out some of Enabling Devices’ blogposts.
Don’t expect perfection
When traveling with kids, meltdowns, whining and a certain amount of drama is inevitable. With any luck, your journey will unfold with as little as possible. So, take a deep breath and soldier on. Hopefully, it will all have been worth it when you reach your destination.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Enabling Devices!
Yes, we know it’s August. And yes we know that Halloween is more than two months away. But when we heard the news about Target’s new line of adaptive, sensory-friendly Halloween costumes with coordinating wheelchair covers we couldn’t wait to tell you! We wanted to make sure that everyone who wants these costumes (and who wouldn’t?) can get them before they’re all sold out.
For the past several years, Enabling Devices’ blog has featured ideas for incorporating wheelchairs into Halloween costumes. But let’s face it. Creating those costumes takes both time and talent, rare commodities for most of us. Finally, there’s a solution!
This Halloween, Target will offer two themed wheelchair covers — a carriage cover fit for your fairy princess; and a pirate ship cover that accommodates your seafaring marauder. The covers “easily attach to a wheelchair using hook and loop closures for a secure fit,” according to a press release from Target Corporate. Adaptive princess and pirate costumes with back openings and “wheelchair-friendly designs” complete the looks.
And that’s not all! Target is also debuting two sensory-friendly costumes so kids with sensory processing disorders and other sensitivities can comfortably dress up as unicorns and sharks. The costumes “feature flat seams and are tag-less for an ultra-comfy feel,” notes the press release.
“Every child deserves to bask in the fun of a special moment,” says Julie Guggemos, senior vice president, Owned Brand Management and Product Design at Target. “And … we’re out to make sure even more kids get that chance this Halloween.”
“We’ve seen how little design details in our Cat & Jack adaptive apparel and Pillowfort sensory-friendly pieces can have a huge impact,” says Guggemos. “Now we’re bringing that same spirit of inclusivity to our new Hyde & EEK! Boutique kids’ costumes. We hope these creations will spark some huge smiles—and bring a little extra joy to our guests’ everyday lives.”
Here’s hoping that Target adds more options to its adaptive collection in time for next Halloween!
Please note: Target’s Hyde & EEK Boutique! adaptive Halloween collection is available only online. So don’t wait. Get ready for Halloween today!
For many of us, the Christmas holiday season is the happiest time of the year. It’s a time to celebrate with family and friends, to give and receive gifts, to sample delicious baked treats and enjoy the beauty of holiday lights, decorations and caroling. But for children with sensory processing disorders, Christmas can present significant sensory integration challenges. Here are some steps that will help make the holidays happy for every member of the family.
Turn down the lights
Though most children with sensory processing disorders enjoy the stimulation they receive from music and colorful, flashing lights, the holiday season may offer too much of a good thing. If you’re planning a trip to a Christmas lights display in your neighborhood, prepare your child in advance, and don’t over-do it. Make sure your child is well-rested and well-fed before making the excursion and set a time limit that takes your child’s sensory needs into account.
Beware of crowds
During the holiday season, we are more likely than ever to encounter large groups of people. Whether it’s holiday shopping at the mall, or attending a party or family gathering, large crowds can be overwhelming to children with sensory processing disorders. If you must take your child shopping, choose times when the stores are likely to be less crowded. Some malls are even designating certain shopping hours for families with children with sensory challenges. Likewise, when attending a big party, make sure you leave before your child becomes tired and over-stimulated. Bring along some of your child’s favorite toys or videos, and make sure there’s a quiet place where he can unwind if he needs to take a break from the action.
Lower the volume
Holiday music, Christmas carols and large groups of people can be too noisy for many children with sensory processing disorders. Noise cancelling headphones can make the difference between a child who’s having a melt-down and a child who’s enjoying holiday activities.
Respect your child’s tactile sensitivities
Sure, it’s disappointing when your child refuses to wear the special holiday outfit you’ve purchased for family photos! But forcing her to wear clothing that makes her physically uncomfortable is a no-win situation. Instead, choose an outfit you know she’ll enjoy wearing, even if it’s the same one she likes to wear every day.
Some children don’t like to be touched — especially by people they don’t know. Never insist that your child receive a hug or a kiss from a friend or relative against his wishes.
Whenever possible, stick to your child’s schedule
Many children with sensory processing disorders thrive on routine. But during the holiday season, routines are much harder to follow. While some flexibility is necessary, your child is likely to be a great deal happier if you adhere to his routine. For example, on evenings when no parties or family excursions are planned, follow his normal bedtime routine. Likewise, attempt to maintain your child’s usual diet and do your best to prevent her from binging on too many sweets.
Thanksgiving comes early this year and you know the drill: Minimize your stress; strive for peace over perfection and when it comes to gift buying, save some steps and a whole lot of aggravation and shop Enabling Devices. In between, find precious time to connect to family and friends. Though the holiday season can be busy, it also provides a wealth of opportunities to make memories, establish traditions and enjoy special events. Here are some of the best ways that families with children with special needs can enjoy Thanksgiving.
One-on-one activities or outings
Thanksgiving often means socializing with big groups of people, a scenario that isn’t ideal for many people on the spectrum. Be sure to set aside time for one-on-one parent/child activities and/or projects that your child and other close family members or friends can enjoy together. As Karen Wang of the Friendship Circle suggests: Try “building relationships by approaching one person at a time and doing some type of activity together – for example, sewing with Grandma or making breakfast with Aunt Maggie.This allowed each person to learn how to communicate with my son and improved my son’s comfort level – no more questions fired rapidly and loudly across the room at him.”
Allow your child to lead a group activity that centers around his special interest
Many children with special needs have passions that they love to share with others. So whether your child is obsessed with anime, Thomas the Tank Engine, Disney movies or baseball trivia, create a time-limited game or activity around his passion.
Help your child cook a special holiday dish
Cooking is a great parent/child bonding activity. It also builds confidence and pride. And bonus: If you and your child prepare a dish she enjoys eating, she’ll anticipate Thanksgiving dinner with enthusiasm.
Nowadays, many entertainment, sports venues and restaurants are knowledgeable about the sensory needs of children with disabilities. Some of these offer sensory-friendly performances, holiday shopping hours and other opportunities so that children with special needs can enjoy holiday activities that might otherwise be uncomfortable for them and their families. Some shopping malls have even begun offering sensory-friendly visits with Santa!
Take steps to make Thanksgiving dinner fun for all
Try not to get caught up in a fantasy of what Thanksgiving dinner is supposed to be. Instead, make the holiday your own by modifying to meet your family’s need and priorities. For example, if your child’s not a turkey fan, give him another option. The vegetarians and vegans that may very well be at your table will thank you!
If you know your child won’t be able to stay at the table for more than 20 minutes, don’t force the issue. Let her leave the table to watch a video, color, or read a book. Alternatively, consider having a less formal Thanksgiving buffet where everyone is free to roam around.
Though some people love cooking favorite family recipes and using their finest China and silver for Thanksgiving celebrations, others would rather keep it simple. Why not make it easy on yourself by having a Thanksgiving pot-luck, ordering some of the meal and using recyclable paper plates, cups and napkins.
Thanksgiving happens once a year. Make it a happy occasion!
With just over a week until Halloween, it’s high time for Enabling Devices’ annual accessible Halloween post. Kudos if you’ve got this under control, but life — especially when you have a child with special needs — can be overwhelming, and sometimes we just can’t avoid waiting until the eleventh hour. If you’re scrambling to make holiday preparations for a child who uses a wheelchair, here are some ideas to make this Halloween a smashing success.
A safe Halloween is a happy one, so take precautions when planning your child’s accessible costume. Some hints from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation include: wearing costumes that are bright and reflective; making sure that costumes aren’t long enough to get stuck in the chair’s wheels; avoiding masks that block eye-sight and using non-toxic makeup to prevent allergic reactions.
Last minute planning
Design a trick-or-treating route that is wheelchair accessible and meets all of your child’s needs. For example, make sure the route includes sidewalks with curb-cuts, homes without stairs and is not overly long. If your child has special dietary needs, consider providing neighbors with treats that comply with his nutritional guidelines.
Incorporate the wheelchair
Nonprofits such as Magic Wheelchair and Walkin’ and Rollin’ Costumes create accessible costumes for wheelchair users. Many of these costumes incorporate the children’s wheelchairs into their costumes. For example: the wheelchair can be fashioned into a princess’ coach, an ice cream truck, a spaceship or a pirate ship. Though it’s too late to take advantage of the free services these organizations provide, they’re a great source of ideas and suggestions.
Take sensory issues into account
Some costumes may be physically uncomfortable or difficult for children with mobility challenges to put on or take off. Nowadays though, it’s relatively easy to find accessible clothing designed for wheelchair users. When designing a homemade costume, start with clothing that’s comfortable and accessible.
Trick-or-treating isn’t the only way to celebrate Halloween. Research other options such as neighborhood parties, costume contests or parades. Throwing a Halloween party in your home is another excellent idea. Your child may prefer the comforts and accessibility of her own space but will still be able to enjoy showing off her costume, socializing with friends, playing holiday-themed games, hearing spooky stories and indulging in holiday treats. Remember: It’s all about enjoying the festivities, whatever they may be.
Independence Day. It’s the time for celebratory fireworks, family barbecues, pool parties and parades — past-times that most Americans anticipate with pleasure. Yet for children with sensory integration disorders and their parents, the loud noises, bright lights, strong odors, hot temperatures and big crowds associated with these activities may instead create feelings of anxiety, fear or even dread. If you’re a parent facing the Fourth of July holiday with trepidation, here are some suggestions for a stress-free celebration.
Prep your child
If you intend to take part in Fourth of July activities, make sure your child knows what to expect. You can prepare a social story about the holiday and read books that tell the story of Independence Day. If you’re attending a social event, tell your child what foods will be served and let him know who is likely to be there. Role-play social situations so your child is prepared to greet other guests and initiate play with other children at the event. If you’ll be attending a parade, try to find out about what floats, musicians and costumed characters will be part of the festivities so your child is prepared for who and what he will see and hear there.
Prepare your hosts
If you’re visiting friends or family, let them know what will work best for your child. Tell them about her sensitivities, favorite foods and find out if there’s a place in the house to where she can retreat if she runs out of steam and needs to decompress. Though it can seem daunting to share your child’s challenges with people outside the immediate family, those who care for you will likely be receptive and happy to help.
Pack a bag
Take along some easy-to-transport toys, sunscreen, sunhats, snacks, rain-gear and a sweatshirt in case of inclement weather. Pack some favorite books and DVDs if you suspect that your child will need time alone.
Be fireworks savvy
If you intend to watch fireworks, bring along noise canceling headphones and a weighted vest or blanket to help your child feel calm and comforted. Consider watching the fireworks from a window or on TV with the sound turned down. That way, children can enjoy the brilliant lights and colors of the fireworks, without the noise. Some children are drawn to the sound and spectacle of fireworks. Be sure to teach your child fireworks safety precautions.
Wait till next year
If after considering all the options, you determine that it’s just too stressful to venture out on the Fourth of July, give yourself and your child a break. Stay home, have a family game or movie night, eat good food and relax. Perhaps next year, your child will be ready to join the Fourth of July festivities.
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