As the parent of a child in a wheelchair, you know how important it is to find an adaptive costume for Halloween. What is an adaptive Halloween costume? It’s a costume designed to be inclusive of all kids regardless of any medical or physical needs they might have. With this list of Halloween costume ideas for a child in a wheelchair, you can make trick-or-treating a blast.
Costumes You Can DIY
Feeling crafty? Try some do-it-yourself Halloween costumes this year.
A wheelchair makes an excellent base for the iconic blue TARDIS. Make the TARDIS out of pieces of foam board to attach to the side of your child’s wheelchair. Your child can dress as their doctor of choice, like Matt Smith’s doctor with his bowtie and suit jacket.
Mr. Fredrickson and the House from Up
If you’re feeling creative, you can make the house from Up out of cardboard and attach it to your child’s chair. To pull off the Mr. Fredrickson look, you need a bowtie, cardigan and a pair of thick glasses. This costume can be excellent for the whole family with other characters like Russell and Kevin the bird.
You may have seen store-bought flower costumes that feature daisy petal headpieces. A flower garden adaptive costume can take that idea to the next level. Attach lattice fencing around your child’s wheelchair and add a foam piece with fake flowers stuck through the center. Your child can wear a flower costume and suddenly they’re the biggest flower in the garden.
Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon
For those of you who are artistic and ready for a challenge, you can transform your child’s wheelchair into Toothless with carved styrofoam and electrical tape. When your child is riding through the neighborhood, they’ll be flying Toothless like a pro.
Turning a wheelchair into the Batmobile is on par with the artistry of Toothless, but your hard work will pay off. Use cardboard, foam and electrical tape to make the design and get a Batman costume for your child to sport while zooming around the neighborhood looking for the bat signal.
For those who like to play Nintendo games, Mario is one of the best adaptive wheelchair costumes. Create a car based on the designs from Mario Kart and find a costume online for your child. This costume has plenty of options with all of the characters in the game, but Mario is one of the most recognizable.
Costumes You Can Buy
If you don’t want to DIY your Halloween costume, you can find some fantastic adaptive costumes online.
In terms of wheelchair costumes, Disney offers a few excellent ones. It sells an adaptive Buzz Lightyear costume with an open rear for wheelchair users. You can also find a wheelchair attachment that looks like Buzz’s spaceship for a full Space Commander setup that’s ready to go door-to-door.
Pirate and Pirate Ship
Costume destinations like Party City sell cardboard ship pieces to attach to your child’s wheelchair. Buy a separate pirate costume, and you have yourself a completed look for sailing the Seven Seas.
You can find adaptive Elsa costumes online that come with the dress and a wheelchair cover that looks like Nokk from Frozen 2. Order early to make sure you get the costume in time.
With fall just around the corner, there are plenty of autumn activities you can try to get children and students excited for cooler weather and the new season. Introducing your students with special needs to various indoor and outdoor fall experiences is a wonderful way to teach them about the changing weather, falling leaves and new sights and smells.
As you read these fall activities for students with special needs, keep in mind that though they are inclusive to most children, some of your students may not enjoy these activities or they may require more assistance. Have an alternative or backup plan if these experiences do not go as planned.
1. Go on a Nature Walk
Taking your students outdoors to explore sights, sounds and scents can tie in your science or weather lesson for the day. You can also encourage your students to collect various plants or point out animals they see. Make a game out of it and see if any children can spot a tree with changing or falling leaves!
This is a perfect opportunity to discuss the transition of the seasons. If you go on a nature walk, choose a wide path so children with wheelchairs or mobility devices can easily navigate the area.
2. Make Leaf Piles
Another fun outdoor fall activity for children with special needs is making piles of leaves to throw in the air or jump in. This activity can help children strengthen their gross motor skills by raking the leaves together. You can describe the sounds and feeling of crunching on the dried leaves with your feet and encourage students to collect a variety of leaves to compare colors and textures.
This activity can help stimulate the senses and teach children with special needs how gravity works as the leaves fall through the air. You can introduce this activity to children with a wide range of disabilities. If you have students with physical limitations or mobility devices, you can demonstrate this activity for them or use a table to put the leaves at their required height.
3. Visit a Farm or Pumpkin Patch
Pumpkins are undoubtedly the symbol of fall. Look for a local farm or pumpkin patch where you can bring your students to enjoy child-friendly activities, such as a petting zoo, exploring a pumpkin patch and decorating pumpkins. All children with disabilities can enjoy this activity, as there will be plenty of things to do at a pumpkin patch that are accessible to many.
Petting and feeding the animals at the farm can be a soothing and fun sensory experience, and children with special needs can also learn to describe the different textures of the pumpkins they pick out. If some of your students have sensory sensitivities, try visiting a smaller pumpkin patch or going on a slow day to avoid crowds.
4. Go on a Hayride
This time of year is the best for hayrides. Cooler, windy weather can be exciting and stimulating for your students. All children with special needs can participate in a hayride if they wish, as most hayride vehicles can accommodate mobility devices, such as wheelchairs.
Some children with sensory sensitivities or those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may not enjoy it. If any students have tactile sensory sensitivities and don’t enjoy the feeling of hay, bring soft blankets or beach towels to lay on the bales. You and other supervising adults can also sit with students who simply want to watch the hayride go by instead of participating. Many places that offer hayrides will also provide other fun activities, such as sandbox games, coloring or a corn maze.
5. Roast Marshmallows
Making s’mores and roasting marshmallows is a fun and delicious activity for any time of year, but it’s particularly enjoyable when combined with cool fall weather. This activity engages the senses by helping your students learn how heat affects marshmallows and what they taste like. This activity would be best for students with no swallowing or feeding challenges.
If you want to conduct this fall-related activity in your classroom, use a hot plate or another electrical tool instead of an open flame. If you have students with various mobility needs who are unable to hold a stick for roasting, you can even roast all the marshmallows in an oven for the same gooey taste.
6. Pick Apples
One of the best fall activities for kids with special needs is picking apples. This project allows you to teach your students about how fruit grows. If you have an apple orchard nearby, bring your students so they can take in all the sights and smells of the apples and eat as many as they want. This activity will allow them to experience many colorful shapes and beautiful sounds in nature.
During the fall season, many apple orchards may have other fun activities, like drinking or making apple cider or tractor rides. This activity can help your students with special needs learn to use their fingers and hand muscles to grasp the apples and pull them from the trees. Some students may need assistance with this activity, such as reaching for the apples or holding their basket.
7. Create Apple Stamps
Making apple art with the apples you picked from the orchard is a fun new art lesson for your students. Cut the apples in half, dip them in ink or paint and paste them onto paper. This will produce a design on the paper.
Then, encourage your students to try it themselves and see what shapes they can make with the apples as you cut them into different pieces. Using these apple stamps, you can even have your students create fall greeting cards for the upcoming holidays, such as Halloween or Thanksgiving.
8. Build Fall-Themed Sensory Bins
A sensory bin lets kids touch and explore various textures. To incorporate a fall theme, you can fill a rubber bin with brown rice and various autumnal goodies, such as:
Acorns and pinecones
Corn husks and kernels
Ask your students to describe the different colors, shapes and textures and provide them with various tools to scoop or grab the items to learn how to master their grasping skills. This activity is friendly for those using mobility devices, but children with limited physical mobility may need assistance.
9. Go Birdwatching
Birdwatching is friendly for all types of needs and abilities because it simply involves sitting or walking around and waiting to spot various birds. Birdwatching during fall is particularly enjoyable because your students may get to see new species of birds among the changing colors of the trees and plants.
Bring your students outside to the playground or local park and have them indicate when they see a bird. You may also attract the birds by putting out cups or hanging birdseed from nearby branches so your students can get a closer look.
10. Bake Seasonal Treats
Baking treats can be one of the most fun fall activities for kids with special needs because it’s something everyone can do together — and they get to enjoy a delicious snack when it’s done. With your students, set up everything you need to bake cookies, pumpkin bread or another treat. You can assign different tasks to students of various abilities, such as mixing the dough, pouring in the ingredients, stirring the contents in the bowl or scooping the dough onto a tray.
If you have some students who have limited mobility, task them with choosing the treats you make or instructing you on how to decorate your goodies when they’re fully cooked! This activity can show students how to practice sharing, taking turns and following directions.
11. Carve a Pumpkin
If you visit a pumpkin patch, have your students bring pumpkins back to your classroom so they can carve or decorate them. With this activity, we recommend you and other supervising adults do the actual carving instead of the children because you will need to use sharp tools. Ask each child what they want their pumpkin to look like or what they want you to carve into the pumpkin, and you can bring it to life.
You may also supply students with glitter, paint and stickers so they can decorate their pumpkins afterward. Allow your students to feel the squishy insides and seeds of the pumpkin and let them play with it and ask them to describe the smell and texture.
Engage Your Student’s Senses With These Fall Activities
If you’re planning some fun activities during the fall for your students with special needs, make sure they have everything they need to comfortably interact and communicate with others as you introduce new sensory concepts. At Enabling Devices, it’s our passion to create exceptional products that help individuals with disabilities and special needs fully participate in the world around them, particularly in fun, engaging and educational activities!
Whether your students could benefit from comforting sensory products during a hayride, adaptive toys to keep them calm during a trip to the orchard or a communication device to express their thoughts and ideas, there are plenty of tools to choose from.
We also offer customized products based on an individual’s needs. If you think one or more of your students could benefit from a certain device, we can design something entirely new that suits their goals and abilities. To learn more about our products and mission to enable possibility, browse our catalog online or contact us today.
Bullying affects millions of students. Over seven million incidents of bullying are reported every school year, and 30% of school-aged children have experienced bullying from someone else. Statistics regarding special needs children reveal they’re at an increased risk of being bullied for several reasons and are two to three times more likely to suffer from bullying than their peers without special needs.
If your child is a victim of bullying during school or their social activities, there are some tips you can follow to help them overcome these issues and build their confidence and communication. Let’s explore how to deal with bullying for your child with special needs or disabilities and what you can do to empower them.
How Bullying Can Impact Students With Disabilities
Being bullied at a young age can negatively affect any child, particularly those with disabilities. Many young kids who have special needs may already feel excluded during school or social activities, and bullying will only make them feel worse. Some of these effects include:
Anxiety and depression.
Physical symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite and fatigue.
Thoughts of suicide.
Social and emotional distress.
Poor academic performance.
Disinterest in school.
Inability to concentrate.
While bullying is already a frightening and humiliating experience, these effects can have long, lasting consequences, such as a child’s access to education and socialization. If your child has been bullied, they may endure the effects long after the bullying stops.
Your child may fear going to school or socializing with new people because of bullying related to their special needs or disabilities. Missing days of school due to bullying can cause your child to have lower grades and make it difficult for them to catch up with their peers academically. Children who have experienced bullying at a young age are also more likely to have substance abuse and addiction disorders during their teenage years and adulthood.
1. Tell Your Child to Reach Out to Someone They Trust
Unless you homeschool your child, they likely spend their day apart from you in the care of other professional educators and administrators. If they experience bullying, they need to have a trusted adult they can talk to and feel safe with. Whether it’s a teacher, coach, counselor or another member of staff at their school, your child should feel comfortable communicating about any issue they experience, especially if they’re bullied or made fun of.
Encouraging your child to seek support when something bothers them or if they’re mistreated can help you learn if they’re getting bullied before it escalates. Bullied children rarely speak up about their experiences because they may fear retaliation from the bully or feel embarrassed about being victimized.
It’s critical to let your child know that finding a trusted adult right away is the right thing to do. When children better understand what bullying is, what it can look like and why it’s important to speak up, they might be less likely to suffer in silence.
You can also let your child know that it’s OK to express their feelings with their teachers or counselors and that doing so can help them feel less alone when they’re away from you. It’s a good idea to have regular talks with your child about why they always need to report bullying to an adult.
2. Join Your School’s Bullying Prevention Program
Many schools have a bullying mediation or prevention program that focuses on teaching kids the signs of bullying and how to put a stop to it if they witness these types of interactions. These programs are helpful for parents to join to stay aware of any bullying behavior that occurs during the school day. These programs can also help create and enforce new rules and policies that cover the different types of bullying, including:
Physical: Kicking, tripping, hitting, pushing or throwing objects at another student.
Verbal: Teasing, insults, mocking, name-calling or any form of verbal intimidation.
Social: Spreading rumors, lying, encouraging others to exclude a student or playing tricks or jokes to purposefully humiliate someone.
However, these programs should focus on cultivating a positive, accepting school culture. Advancing social and emotional learning to help students understand the differences among their peers and how to be supportive and kind may be more effective than simply enforcing consequences. An anti-bullying program could focus on bystander intervention or buddy programs that encourage students to speak up about bullying and promote positive friendships, particularly among vulnerable students.
Because children with disabilities or special needs are more likely targeted by bullies, these programs can help students feel empowered to seek help because they know they have school support. These programs will also give you, as a parent, some peace of mind that the school is looking out for your child and will take action if bullying occurs.
3. Keep an Open Line of Communication
While it’s critical your child feels comfortable seeking support from any adult about bullying, you should also have those types of conversations with them at home. This is one of the best ways to help your child overcome bullying because they will learn how to express their emotions, fears and experiences.
If you and your child maintain a strong relationship and talk consistently about emotions and social situations, such as what goes on at school and within their friendships, you may be alerted more quickly if anything goes wrong or your child is mistreated.
While teaching your child how to express themselves through their verbal and nonverbal cues, you can also show them support by listening and asking questions to learn as much about their situations as possible. If your child’s disability prevents them from speaking or makes it difficult, you can use communication devices or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices that help them better express themselves.
If your child recounts an experience about getting bullied, assure them that they are not to blame and they’re doing the right thing for speaking to you about it. It’s important to emphasize how crucial this communication is — if you don’t talk about it, your child could suffer in silence or feel they have no one to turn to.
You should avoid telling your child to ignore any bullying because this can become a habit and escalate the bullying. Always make your child feel they can speak to you about anything, no matter how embarrassing or difficult it is.
4. Ask Your Child What You and Others Can Do to Make Them Feel Safe
In a situation like bullying, there are many reasons your child may feel unsafe, especially if they have a disability. If they already feel isolated, lonely, depressed or scared to go to school due to bullying, it can be difficult to feel comfortable taking them to school. A great way to help them overcome bullying is to ask them what you and their teachers can do to make them feel safe.
Whether they’re experiencing severe bullying from one person or insults and mockery from several students, it’s important to make your child feel included regarding how you can move forward toward a solution. Some children may express the desire for you to homeschool them after bullying, while others may want to enter a mediation program with the bully to talk about the situation and resolve it together.
Let your child know they have options and their voice will be heard. Your child may even want to have a teacher, staff member or another student escort them to each of their classes so they can avoid interacting with their bully entirely and feel safer at school.
5. Educate the Bully
If you have the opportunity to sit down with your child’s bully, their parents and teachers in a mediation or bullying program, you can educate that student on your child’s disability or special needs and how their differences only make them different, not lesser. You can have an open and honest talk with the bully and their parents about why certain words, jokes or behavior are harmful to your child and how it could make them feel isolated.
The most valuable tool you have is educating the bully on your child’s needs and abilities and how to engage with them properly. Explain to your child’s bully that, though your child may appear different in some ways, they share many similarities with other kids.
It’s also a good idea to let your child’s classmates know it’s normal to be curious and ask questions about those who seem different, but they can do so in a respectful and thoughtful manner. In these meetings, you can encourage your child to speak with their bully about how they feel and how they wish to be treated instead. These types of situations are a great opportunity to give your child a voice and support themselves, knowing you are right there beside them.
6. Encourage Your Child to Find Hobbies
Bullying can feel extremely isolating, especially for kids with disabilities and special needs, who may already feel different from others. Inspiring your child to spend time doing activities they love can help them feel a sense of excitement and joy outside of school and even help them make new friends.
Encouraging your child to partake in hobbies outside of school can help build their confidence in interacting with others and learning how to verbally express their emotions. Whether your child shows an interest in animals, drawing, theater, music or other activities, it’s crucial to support their enjoyment by letting them pursue these in their free time.
Many students who are bullied may feel there is no escape from the harassment or humiliation they feel at school. Helping your child find other ways to engage with those who are kind to them and share similar interests can help them feel included among their peers. These hobbies can also help them learn the social skills and independence they need while at school to better address situations with bullies.
7. Motivate Your Child to Connect With Others
Regardless of what your child’s physical, mental and verbal abilities are, it’s important to find ways for them to connect with their peers and rely on them for support. Research shows that both peer and parental support play critical protective roles against bullying and victimization. This support allows parents, teachers and students to prevent bullying and foster friendships throughout the school for children with special needs and disabilities.
Motivating your child to connect with others and participate in group activities can help them feel they have a circle of friends they can talk to if they’re being bullied, which could help them feel less alone. Showing your child that most of their classmates are likely kind and understanding can make it easier for them to relate to their peers and be more open to building friendships.
Peer-to-peer advocacy is a strong tool against bullying those with special needs because other students are more likely to be present than teachers when bullying occurs. If your child has friends and peers they can rely on, those peers will likely help stop bullying when it occurs or tell an adult what has happened.
8. Teach Your Child to Stick By Their Friends
Just as you’d want other students and peers to support your child if bullying occurs, it’s essential to teach your child the same values. Children with disabilities and special needs are more likely to be bullied, and children without disabilities can experience similar harassment.
Your child should know when to speak up and advocate for their peers by telling an adult what they witnessed. Your child should know their participation and effort to stand against bullying can create a safer, happier environment for everyone.
When telling your child to stick by their friends, let them know that it also means to avoid engaging with their bully and to only interact with peers who are kind to them. Following this advice will help your child find their true friends who will make them feel safe and part of a group.
9. Inspire Confidence
Another way to help your child overcome bullying is to build their confidence within themselves. There’s evidence that bullying significantly affects one’s self-esteem, so your child may struggle with how they feel about themselves after being bullied. While hobbies and extracurricular activities are a great way to build healthy connections with others, try to also inspire their confidence and self-love.
Remind your child of their unique skills and qualities and reinforce positive attitudes and behavior with them. Teach your child to embrace their individuality and uniqueness. If you consistently point out their strengths, interests, skills and positive characteristics, they’ll likely learn to be more confident in who they are. If you show your child they have the power to move on from a negative situation, it helps them better prepare to handle bullying if they experience it again.
Empower Your Child With Tips and Tools From Enabling Devices
Empowering your child with disabilities can help them feel more confident and prepared to go to school after experiencing bullying. At Enabling Devices, we want to continue empowering your child with devices, tools, toys, support and resources that make it easier for them to communicate and gain more independence.
Our diverse and customizable products let us create options that meet our customers’ needs. From our communicators to assistive and adaptive devices to switches, we can find the right technology and products to help your child fulfill more possibilities. Contact us today to see how we can help your child unlock their potential or browse our products and accessories.
Literature is a valuable resource for students to improve in various skills such as reading comprehension, language skills, object identification and even social skills. However, some students with disabilities may struggle to engage with traditional reading materials. Adapted books provide a solution by modifying texts to help students stay motivated. These books are more accessible to students with diverse learning styles. Plus, you can tailor them for students with a range of abilities, as they’re highly flexible learning materials.
Below, we’ll discuss what adapted books are, why they’re important for accessible education and how to create your own adapted reading materials.
How Do Adapted Books Work?
Adapted books provide a more engaging, accessible way for children with disabilities to experience literature. Rather than asking students to adjust their learning styles to traditional books, these books are modified with features like tactile elements to support students with different learning styles. For example, a student may have trouble visualizing a concept like tall grass or a prickly cactus. However, an adapted book could include textured fabric or pointy plastic to help students physically feel these materials and better understand vocabulary.
Many adapted books include objects or cards attached to pages with fabric fasteners. These books ask students to participate in the story by actively completing tasks like filling in blanks to build sentences. For example, you could write the sentence “Who picks apples?” illustrating the concept of a group of people picking apples. Then, students can choose from words such as “he,” “she,” “it” or “they,” attaching the tile with the appropriate word to answer the question.
Various other adaptations may include page spacers to make thin pages easier to turn, different textures, braille text for the visually impaired or using adaptive technology to provide sound or moving images. Adapted books also typically include pictures that correspond to the text to help students better visualize the words. Repeating the same symbol corresponding with particular terms will expose students to abstract vocabulary in a format they can better understand.
These books can help keep students with disabilities engaged in the story to build their language and reading comprehension skills. Adapted books can help all students of various levels learn and grow.
For example, a lower-functioning student may focus on object recognition and matching, such as identifying the number of items on a page or selecting the right color that corresponds to a picture. On the other hand, students with more advanced language skills may be asked to choose the proper preposition corresponding to the image on the page. Adapted books are flexible, allowing teachers to modify them according to a student’s particular needs.
Why Are Adapted Books Important?
Regardless of a student’s reading comprehension level, adapted books encourage engagement with literature in a more accessible way. Teachers design them to be interactive and motivate students, helping readers feel like they’re part of the book by physically moving the pieces. Adapted books can help students feel more engaged and motivated while increasing reading comprehension and language skills. Plus, their easy setup makes these books an appealing, accessible classroom activity.
Students with disabilities, especially intellectual and developmental disabilities, may benefit from nontraditional teaching methods. These students may need tasks and materials broken down into smaller steps, hands-on materials and increased visual stimulation.
Adapted books for autism and intellectual disabilities are an engaging solution, as they cater to diverse learning styles and ask students to participate in the story. Because they’re hands-on solutions, these books can increase reading stamina, or the amount of time a student focuses on a text. The different physical and visual stimuli of the books help students with disabilities concentrate on the story. Plus, they can cover a range of cross-curricular topics like math, history and social skills to provide a comprehensive learning experience.
Adapted books are incredibly versatile. Educators typically create adapted books to adhere to different lesson plans and target multiple skills. Each book is tailored to various students’ learning needs, with a range of concepts, formats and materials covered depending on a particular student’s educational goals.
Since adapted books are individualized learning materials, they’re more likely to help students successfully achieve their objectives. When students have a positive, enjoyable reading experience, they’re more likely to continue engaging with literature. Ultimately, people with disabilities will feel more empowered and motivated to participate in the classroom.
Aid With Reading Comprehension
Students with disabilities may have trouble understanding and visualizing complex or abstract topics. Adapted books aid reading comprehension by presenting complex concepts in a simplified, straightforward way. Adapted books also rely on repetition to familiarize students with various ideas. Each book should focus on a central theme with repeated images and words on each page to help students grasp a range of concepts.
For example, a child may have trouble understanding what food is considered healthy. You can help children understand that fruits and vegetables are healthy by illustrating different items and asking students to select and group the correct ones. One page could focus on fruits, the next could cover vegetables and the following could depict dairy products. Providing visual portrayals of the idea can help children match words to familiar pictures.
Beyond creating your own adapted reading materials, you can also adapt existing books. Asking students questions while they read can help keep them focused and help you determine their level of understanding. Aim for questions that focus on reading comprehension, such as “What characters are on the page?” or “What’s happening in the story and the book’s setting?” You can also easily represent these concepts with images.
Build Language Skills
Adapted books are a great way to advance any student’s language skills with word visualization, picture matching and repetition. Educators can help students visualize certain language concepts like prepositions. For example, you can illustrate the word “on” by drawing a line with a dot on top of it. Or demonstrate what “around” means by creating a line with an arrow wrapping around it.
Make sure the book you design or select is appropriate for a student’s skill level. A student working on object identification should work with a book that asks them to match items rather than one that covers prepositions.
Adapted books are also especially beneficial for giving nonverbal students the chance to participate. Students with limited communication skills can point to or match different concepts. They can also collaborate with classmates to work through the book, building social skills.
Adapted books are an easy group classroom activity. To make the books, create the graphics and text digitally. Then, print the book, laminate and bind it and attach any required features, like fabric fasteners. In the classroom, they’re easy to get out and clean up. The interactive reading kits should contain all the parts students need to complete the activity. Students can also work together to use the materials, helping children with disabilities develop their communication and social skills.
How to Make Your Own Adapted Books
Creating your own adapted books for the classroom is easy. Adapted books are flexible — you can either adapt your favorite existing books or create your own stories to target particular skills. Regardless of what you choose, ensure you’re adapting every book for each students’ specific needs, whether that means adding texture, page-turners or other elements.
Adapting Existing Books
You can adapt an existing book by creating your own materials to add to a book, making traditional story time more engaging for students with disabilities. It’s best to choose a book children are familiar with, especially when the interactive element asks students reading comprehension questions.
Take the following steps to adapt your favorite picture books:
Select the book: The first step to adapting an existing book is to select the text you’d like to modify. Consider obtaining multiple copies of the same book to modify for different reading levels. Various modifications can also target particular skills, such as reading comprehension, object identification or language skills. You should also keep an unmodified teacher copy of the text.
Consider adaptation techniques: After selecting a book, you should decide what kind of adaptations to add. Review your students’ needs to determine how to adapt the book. Are the adapted books for students with autism who need texture and visual stimulation to stay engaged? Does the student have trouble turning pages? Adaptations can include adding page-turners, pictures or textures to facilitate the reading experience. You can easily create page-turners by adding popsicle stick pieces, tabs or other raised surfaces to the pages.
Find pictures: Next, find pictures that correspond to the text. Free resources like Microsoft Word Clipart or Google Images have a range of pictures, symbols and other images. You can also check out paid platforms. You’ll want to ensure they’re engaging and appropriately sized for the text. Review the book beforehand to plan where you’d like to add interactive elements. You’ll better determine how to best size the images when printing.
Apply materials to the book: Finally, you can apply the interactive materials to the book with glue or packing tape. You can also use removable label sheets if you’d like to preserve the original pages. Using packing tape is a good idea, as it automatically laminates the surface to prevent wear and tear and provides a smooth surface for the fabric fasteners to adhere to. When applying the interactive elements, ensure all essential textual and graphic elements on the page are still visible.
You might also want to consider re-binding the existing book if it’s a soft-cover copy and you have a binding machine available. Re-binding these books gives you more space for the interactive elements on the page where the binding previously took up space. It also may make it easier for some students to turn the pages. Use a knife to slice off the original binding and re-bind soft-cover books. Then, bind the loose pages like any other paper.
Creating New Adapted Books
If you want to create your own story to help students with particular skills, you can create your own adapted books. When making an adapted book, you should first determine each student’s needs. The format you choose for adapted books depends on your students’ learning objectives. For example, a student with sensory processing disorder may benefit from tactile additions to a book as a form of sensory integration therapy. Another student may benefit from a story that teaches both reading comprehension and social skills. Creating your own adapted book provides many flexible options.
There are several types of adapted books you can create:
Traditional adapted books: Traditional adapted books are relatively easy to create. While this method is slightly more time-consuming than alternatives, these materials can last for years in your classroom. Design each text and graphics page with clear images that follow a theme. Then, print, laminate and bind the pages with a binding machine or binder rings. Finally, attach an adhesive fabric fastener on each answer space, picture tile and tile place keeping spot.
Mini-adapted books: Mini-adapted books are excellent options to save paper. As the name suggests, this version is half the size of traditional adapted books. These smaller books provide a last-minute classroom activity, which is especially beneficial for substitute teachers. Further, mini adapted books are not laminated, allowing each student to take their book home for continued learning. Students who are able can also practice their fine motor skills by cutting and assembling their own books.
Digital adapted books: Many schools have now embraced remote learning. Digital adapted books allow students to access homemade digital copies of texts anywhere. Digital texts can help students learn essential technology skills. Further, technology can aid with listening and reading comprehension by reading the book aloud to students. Hearing and seeing the words with a corresponding image can help with object identification, language skills and reading comprehension.
Regardless of the type of adapted book you create, each spread should first include a page with the story. Then, two question pages should follow. For physical copies, you can either attach a piece of laminated cardstock to the side or bottom of the book to keep the attachable, interactive tile pieces. You can also keep the answer tiles on the front or back cover of the book.
Shop Accessible Reading Tools With Enabling Devices
Students with disabilities may struggle to engage fully when using traditional reading materials. Adapted books for students with autism and other disabilities can provide a creative, accessible solution to keep students motivated. Because every adapted book is tailored to each student’s particular needs, they can help students concentrate and understand the story.
The 4th of July is a great holiday to celebrate our nation’s independence with friends and family. However, for many people and animals, it’s one of the most anxiety-inducing days of the year. While the 4th of July brings joy, barbecues and celebration, it also brings loud, crackling fireworks and booming music playing from every street corner or outdoor public area. For children with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder and sensory sensitivities, this noise can be extremely unsettling and even scary.
As a caregiver, there are not many things you can do to control the noise in public areas or in your neighborhood. However, you can make this upcoming holiday easier for your child to help them feel comfortable and safe. Here are some sensory-friendly 4th of July items to have on hand ahead of the fireworks.
1. Noise-Blocking Headphones
Sound sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms found in children with autism or special needs, which can make the upcoming holiday very overwhelming for your child. Research shows that children with autism are often more sensitive to loud noises or perceive them to be louder than others. These loud, repetitive or abrupt noises on the 4th of July can be strong irritants, so it’s important to have noise-blocking headphones or other auditory sensory products on hand that help your child feel comforted.
Noise-canceling headphones can often block out most of the noise, which is why many parents use them when taking their children to concerts. You can also give your child headphones that play soothing music or white noise if they prefer. Whether you’re celebrating from the comfort of your home or out with friends and family, having these headphones with you can provide instant relief to your child, particularly if they use alternate methods of communication.
Bright lights are also a common sensory sensitivity for children with visual processing disorders, autism and special needs. Bright lights, including fireworks, can cause sensory overload in children and result in sensory avoidance — when your child tries to escape a situation or stimuli others can easily tune out. Studies show bright, flashing or flickering lights can significantly affect hypersensitivity in people with autism and create negative visual sensory experiences. Though all needs and sensory sensitivities differ in children with special needs and autism, they may also have difficulties tolerating:
When it comes to light, you might find your child keeping their eyes closed, covering them or falling asleep to avoid the glare. Sunglasses can help your child feel more comfortable in the presence of bright lights by protecting their eyes and shielding them from the sun, fluorescent lights or spotlights that might be present during 4th of July celebrations.
3. A Favorite Comfort Item, Toy or Game
Bringing familiar toys, games or a particular item your child loves can be a perfect distraction during overstimulating activities like firework shows, barbecues, parades, block parties or other outdoor events. A toy or game will also serve as something to keep their mind occupied and focus on something in their hands rather than what’s going on around them. If they feel overwhelmed or frightened by the excessive noise, crowd or visual movements, they can turn to their favorite toy for comfort.
It’s common for children with different disabilities to be picky eaters for many reasons, including how specific foods feel in their mouths or how crunchy or soft they are. Take advantage of this and stock up on your child’s favorite snacks ahead of the holiday. During the fireworks show or at home, your child can focus on enjoying the taste, texture and flavor of their snacks instead of the environment around them.
Food can also provide a crucial distraction for your child if they are anxious about the fireworks, the sounds of people grilling nearby, excited chatter or other activities that can make them feel overwhelmed. Be sure to bring a cooler if you go out and have plenty of snack options for your child to choose from when the day arrives.
5. A Favorite Blanket
As a child, nothing is more comforting than a favorite blanket, teddy bear or stuffed toy that you take with you everywhere. Your child likely has one of these, so it’s a good idea to make sure you bring them along wherever you’ll be on the 4th of July. A favorite blanket adds even more advantages because you can use it to establish a visual boundary for your child and the rest of your family.
This gives your child their own special space to play with toys and enjoy snacks in peace and comfort and ensures no one will invade their set boundaries. If you go to a parade or similar event, your child can still use their favorite blanket to wrap themselves up and feel hidden and cozy ahead of the activities.
Other Sensory-Friendly Tips for Preparing for the 4th of July
Here are some other autism-friendly 4th of July tips to keep in mind to help your child get through the celebrations in comfort:
Count down: Mark your calendar for the 4th of July and cross out the days leading up to the holiday with your child to get them excited about it.
Talk it out: Let your child know something different is coming up and what you plan to do. Kids with special needs may be more prepared for the 4th of July activities if you tell them what to expect, such as where you will go and how long the festivities will last. Tell them about fireworks and what colors or sounds they might see if they have never seen them before.
Find the right spot: Provide a safe distance from the action if your child gets overwhelmed, such as a secluded area away from the crowd. You should also remain near your car if possible in case your child wants to escape from the noise and watch the fireworks from there.
Know their limits: Be mindful of the situation. While family memories and celebrations are important, it’s not worth your child feeling stressed. Have a plan in place with alternate activities, such as watching the fireworks at home on TV, if your child becomes too overstimulated.
Give them ways to ask for a break: If your child uses alternate communication methods, make sure they have a special card or device that lets them alert you when they feel overwhelmed or need a break. This can make them feel more prepared and safe before engaging in any activities.
Prepare for a Fun Fourth of July This Year
This upcoming holiday should be a wonderful time for you and your family to relax and celebrate. Your child with a disability deserves to make memories and enjoy themselves, and bringing along some of their favorite items and toys can create a calming experience. There are plenty of ways to keep them feeling safe and pleasantly distracted, even in a stimulating new environment.
At Enabling Devices, our goal is to create unique products, tools and devices that help individuals with disabilities participate in community events and day-to-day activities in comfort. If you’re a parent looking to make more fulfilling experiences with your child, browse our sensory products and adaptive toys and games. We also invite you to contact us to learn more about customizing a product to fit your child’s needs.
Toys allow children to have fun, but they can also do so much more. Some toys are designed to help children develop their five senses, while others help children with specific tasks. If you teach a class of students with special needs, adding certain types of toys to your lesson plans or classroom setting can help your students relax, focus better and develop their fine motor and communications skills.
Toys for Increasing Focus
Children learn more effectively when they can pay attention to the instructions and focus on the lesson. Certain types of movement may improve some children’s concentration and focus. Enabling Devices offers several types of toys for improving focus, including Sensory Kits. The following toys can help students with special needs concentrate better in a classroom setting.
1. Classroom Fidget Kit
Fidgeting gives the body the chance to burn off excess energy. Redirecting some of a child’s fidgety energy can help enhance their learning. Several studies have examined the impact fidget toys have on children’s test scores. One study found a 10% increase in scores when students used fidget toys.
Fidget toys do more than help redirect a child’s energy. They can also help children develop fine motor skills and dexterity. Playing with these toys may help lower children’s stress and anxiety levels.
The Classroom Fidget Kit includes a variety of toys to meet the sensory needs of each student in a classroom. The toys are packaged in a handy tote bag for easy storage and transport.
Inside the kit, you’ll find:
Gel Bead Balls
Rainbow Pom Balls
Desk Buddy Sensory Bars
Figer Squash It
Pencil Finger Fidgets
Wood Fidget Puzzles
The kit contains two of each type of toy.
Twiddles is a cuddly and soft toy that children can wear around their arm like a sleeve. The Classic Twiddles has a soft fringe and marble pouch. We’ve added vibration, which provide additional sensory stimulation.
Twiddles is machine washable and can be put in the dryer, as long as you remove all of the attachments and battery packs first. You might want to purchase several so students can use the toys when they feel stressed or have trouble focusing during class time.
3. Gel Lap Pad
The Gel Lap Pad contains a sparkling, colorful gel that helps children focus and self-soothe. During classroom instruction, children can hold the pad on their lap and push into the gel to redirect their energy, improving their concentration.
The lap pad is easy to clean and contains a nontoxic gel.
4. Weighted Puppy
Weighted toys can help children concentrate while also helping calm and soothe them. The Weighted Puppy wraps around a child’s shoulders and neck. The gentle pressure from the cuddly pup helps improve children’s attention and concentration.
The weighted puppy is microwave-safe, so you can gently heat it for use as a hot pack. It can also go chill the freezer to use as a cold pack.
Toys to Help With Sleep
Children with special needs might have difficulty sleeping, whether at home or during classroom nap time. Fortunately, there are several toys available that may help calm and soothe them, making it easier to fall asleep.
1. Tranquil Turtle
The Tranquil Turtle is a soft, soothing friend a child can bring to bed or naptime. The turtle has a light-up shell that produces wave-like motions. It also makes soothing sounds similar to an ocean breeze. In a darkened room, the turtle’s lights and sounds help create a calm atmosphere.
You can adjust Tranquil Turtle’s volume, brightness and movement to create a sensory experience customized to each child.
2. Twinkles to Go Octo
Twinkles to Go Octo is an adapted illuminator that projects stars and fish onto the walls of your classroom. There’s one switch that turns Twinkles to Go on and off. A second switch changes the color of the lights. The switches are sold separately.
Twinkles to Go can be ideal as a soothing toy for children with a fear of the dark. The illuminator stays lit for 45 minutes before shutting off.
3. Weighted Blankets
Weighted Blankets have long been used to help children with sensory processing disorders. The blankets create a sensory experience that many children find calming. The gentle pressure creates a calming effect, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress in children. In some cases, a weighted blanket at nap or bedtime may help reduce the occurrence of nightmares and night-waking.
When choosing blankets, it’s important to pick the weight appropriate for a child’s age and size. Blankets that are too heavy can be overstimulating for some children. Weighted blankets are generally considered safe for children age 4 or older who weigh more than 50 pounds.
Toys to Help Relax
Some children with autism can become over-stimulated following a change in routine or in triggering environments like loud areas or places with a lot of sensory stimulation, such as strong smells. The best relaxing toys for children with special needs help them avoid a meltdown or other behaviors such as self-stimulation.
1. Bubble Tubes
Bubble Tubes help create a relaxing atmosphere at home or in a classroom. The tubes vary in size but are typically water-filled cylinders that produce bubbles to help children relax and focus. Some tubes play soothing songs while others produce a gentle hum. The tubes may also have built-in LED lights in various colors that children can change with the push of a button.
2. Tubular Vibrator
Vibrations can help children with sensory processing difficulties, specifically excitatory vibrations. Excitatory vibration is most beneficial for children with low arousal who need additional stimulation to stay alert and relax. One way to provide vibration is through a Tubular Vibrator.
The Tubular Vibrator is a soft toy that can wrap around the neck, arm or any other body part. It provides vibrotactile feedback that can either soothe or energize a child. It’s available in adapted and unadapted versions. The adapted version vibrates only when the button on a switch is depressed. The unadapted version has an on/off switch.
3. Jellyfish Soother
The Jellyfish Soother is a cute and soft jellyfish toy that plays gentle music and ocean sounds. The Jellyfish Soother cycles through a rainbow of colors as it plays a four-minute melody. The soother is adapted for use with an external switch that activates the lights and music. It can also be used without a switch, as it turns on and off when the edge of the body is pressed.
The Jellyfish can rest on a tabletop or other surface. It also has a look so you can hang it from the ceiling or wall.
Toys for Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills require a child to use the small muscles in their body, such as those in the hands and fingers. Developing fine motor skills helps children become more independent, as they need the skills to dress themselves, eat and perform numerous everyday tasks. With fine motor skills, children can grip objects and manipulate materials.
Examples of fine motor skills include being able to hold a pencil or crayon, use a computer mouse, tie shoelaces and brush their teeth. Numerous toys can help children with special needs develop their fine motor skills.
1. Therapeutic Manipulator
The Therapeutic Manipulator is an activity center that helps children develop key fine motor skills, including grasping and reaching. It also helps develop finger isolation. The toy has several activities built in, such as a dangling toy that makes a silly noise when pulled or a giant knob that makes a cartoon sound when turned. There’s a multicolored, light-up spring toy and a big green button that plays soothing music.
Children can play with the toy on the floor or at a table. You can also remove the base and attach it to a wall.
2. Tactivity Center
The Tactivity Center is a multipurpose toy that helps children with limited mobility exercise and participate in therapeutic activities. It securely fastens to a table or wheelchair tray with two c-clamps. The toy consists of lightweight tubing with three attached accessories, including two textured balls and a ring.
Children can reach for and grasp the ring or balls, helping develop strength and eye-hand coordination. You can purchase additional accessories and extra toys for the Tactivity Center.
3. Desktop Busy Box
The Desktop Busy Box provides a variety of tactile experiences to a child, as each of its four sides has a different tactile sensation. One side plays music, another has ball chains and music, a third lights up and the fourth lets you record a 10-second message. On the top of the Busy Box is a green button that vibrates when pushed.
The Busy Box is attached to a lazy Susan, which lets children spin it, encouraging them to practice reaching. It also teaches children the basics of cause and effect, as they can soon see what happens after they press on each side of the box.
Mini-Coms help children develop simple communication skills. The devices let you record a short 20-second message, such as “I want an apple.” Children can press the yellow button on the front of the communication device to let you know that they want an apple. The devices have a track on the top where you can place pictures or icons that illustrate the child’s message.
Each Mini-Com has a small piece of hook and loop fastener on the side to connect several units and create more complex sentences.
2. Rocking Say It Play It
The Rocking Say It Play It helps children learn the connection between language and function. A useful toy for developing language skills, the Rocking Say It Play It lets you record two messages. Which message plays depends on the side of the switch the child presses. The toy helps children better understand how language works and what happens when certain words are spoken.
3. Puzzle Communicator Set
The Puzzle Communicator Set helps children recognize different types of animals while working on their communication skills. You can record up to 300 seconds on the communicator, creating messages for each of the five puzzle levels. When a child picks up or sets down a puzzle piece, the message will play.
Along with helping children learn communication skills, the Puzzle Communicator Set helps them develop grasping and fine motor skills. Each set comes with three puzzles and one base.
4. Totally Tactile Communicator
The Totally Tactile Communicator is an AAC device that’s particularly useful for children with visual impairment. The tool has textured icons that are bright and colorful. You can record up to 36 messages on the communicator at seven seconds per message.
It has three built-in controls, including an on/off adjustment and volume control. The tool is attached to a lazy Susan, allowing playback delay on outside plates and vibration adjustment.
The Totally Tactile Communicator is flexible and customizable. You can adjust the messages and recording times based on a child’s specific needs. You can also use the communicator in various settings, such as in the classroom, at the child’s home or in public. The toy helps motivate children to communicate and interact with the world around them by allowing them to share messages.
Get the Best Toys for Your Home or Classroom
For more than four decades, Enabling Devices has created toys and products to help people with disabilities interact and connect with the world. Our goal is to bring joy to children and further unlock their potential through toys and communication devices.
Our toys have a place in the classroom, the home and sensory rooms. If you’re looking for the best toys to help children develop communication skills and fine motor skills, we have plenty of options. Our toys can also help children learn to self-soothe and calm themselves in periods of anxiety and stress.
Sensory Integration Toys and Products for Children and Adults With Special Needs
Sensory integration (SI) is the process the brain uses to organize and interpret information received from all senses, including sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, body awareness, movement and gravitational pull. Many kids develop sensory integration during normal childhood activities, but some are not able to develop it as efficiently as they should. Sensory integration disorders can lead to learning, behavioral or developmental problems.
Sensory integration therapy can help children with SI disorders by exposing them to structured and repetitive sensory stimulation. Over time, the child’s brain adapts and starts to process sensory stimulations more efficiently. Through their positive experiences with sensory stimulation, children and adults can engage more with different sensations and situations. Over time, they’ll be able to continue processing new experiences in the real world.
An important aspect of SI therapy is the use of carefully designed activities and accommodation. This process could happen in the form of special sensory processing disorder products and sensory room items. Some of the products that have helped people during SI therapy include activity mats, ball chairs and clampable sensory trays.
What Are Sensory Items and Sensory Toys?
Sensory toys for children on the autism spectrum and special needs enable them to receive one or more of the sensory inputs they crave. They can keep a child engaged physically and mentally by stimulating senses such as taste, smell, touch, sound, sight, movement and balance. Special needs sensory toys may have sharply contrasting colors or produce sounds and stimulate two or more senses during play. The toys can capture the attention of children, and they may be used as rewards during behavioral analysis programs. For those with ADHD, sensory toys serve as good fidget toys that boost concentration and improve focus. They also help people who need to keep their hands busy to pay attention and listen.
Specially designed to help children experience sensory stimulation in a safe and controlled environment, these sensory and autism toys allow them to experience the world in new ways. These toys engage specific senses and empower children to process new information through their senses in a gentle way that helps them feel comfortable and relaxed.
The Benefits of Having Sensory Toys In Your Classroom
Every classroom should have sensory toys on hand, as sensory experiences offer many benefits. Here are some of the reasons to have sensory toys in the classroom.
One of the main advantages of sensory toys is their calming effects. Sensory toys can soothe or refocus attention. They are common autism resources for handling overstimulation. Noise-canceling headphones, chewable jewelry, weighted pads and other toys have soothing capabilities, suitable for relaxing students who are stressed, anxious or fidgety.
Can Provide Additional Stimulation
Sensory stimulation promotes self-awareness and connection with surroundings. Students sometimes need additional stimulation to be able to concentrate in the classroom. Small toys designed for fidgeting and sensory stimulation can result in a more focused, productive learning environment.
Helps Students Socialize
Sensory toys also promote socialization and social play. They give children the chance to explore their senses together. For instance, drums create auditory stimulation for all nearby children, and groups can cooperate to create rhythms together. Bubbles create visual stimulation, and kids can take turns blowing bubbles and chasing them. Toys like these give kids a chance to take turns while still participating in the meantime.
Sensory toys can also help improve focus. They foster awareness of a child’s surroundings, which the child can use to better concentrate in real-life situations, including classrooms. Toys for kids who struggle to focus include fidget toys of various shapes, textures and colors.
Improves Motor Skills
Muscle movement, balance and hand-eye coordination are all skills children have to develop with practice. Sensory toys provide an opportunity to support and refine these skills. For instance, molding dough requires dexterity and strength to create desired shapes. Other helpful sensory toys include equipment that promotes jumping, bouncing and core stabilization.
Improves Cognitive Development
Sensory experiences are key for cognitive development. They help a child learn to process experiences and handle simulating real-world environments. Sensory toys also help children learn about cause and effect, seeing how their actions influence the world around them.
Improves Sensory Development
A child’s brain reacts to sensory input in complex ways. Sensory toys help kids explore their senses in a safe, controlled setting. They help children learn to process and anticipate sensory experiences beyond the classroom.
What Is the Purpose of Sensory Play?
Sensory play is any type of activity that can stimulate someone’s senses. Kids learn best and retain the greatest volume of information when their senses are effectively engaged. For example, if you learned the lyrics of a song with a friend in childhood, as soon as you hear the tune, your brain will create a flashback memory to your childhood years.
Sensory play aids mental development through exploration and can help your child’s brain make strong connections for processing and responding to sensory information. Some of the vital benefits of sensory play include that it:
Builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways that can help a child handle complex learning tasks
Aids the development of language, boosts cognitive growth and sharpens motor skills
Enhances social interaction and problem-solving skills
Can calm a frustrated or anxious child
Helps children learn important sensory attributes like dry, wet, cold, hot and sticky
How Sensory Products Can Provide Calm
Sensory products and sensory rooms are beneficial to those who have ADHD, autism or sensory processing disorder. Calming toys help people on the autism spectrum to relax in stress-inducing situations. They provide a soothing effect when a person is experiencing a meltdown or sensory challenge. They can be used in the classroom, home or clinic and may be applied as an integral part of a calming room to help both children and adults go to sleep. The key features that create this calm can include weight, vibration, a soft surface, gentle massaging and a rhythmic sound.
Shop for Sensory Products Online With Enabling Devices
Sensory toys offer a wide range of benefits for children on the autism spectrum. Some toys serve to soothe and calm an overstimulated child. Other toys help children learn about the world around them and how their actions affect it. Sensory toys can also help develop motor skills, including oral motor skills. If you’re looking for sensory toys, shop with Enabling Devices.
At Enabling Devices, we’ve spent over 40 years creating products to help those with disabilities participate in the world. Our goals are to enable possibility, unlock potential and bring joy. If you’re unable to find the product you need, we can custom-design a new product for you.
Browse Enabling Devices’ sensory toys above for children on the autism spectrum and other disabilities.
If you have a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or teach students with ADHD, you understand how learning at school can be difficult. You can help students with ADHD — whether you are a parent or a teacher. Talk to the other important people in their life, pay attention to how they interact with peers and create a structure so the student learns to build a routine.
Certain types of toys are specifically designed for students with ADHD or sensory processing disorders. Many schools and educators are open to children using fidget toys and gadgets during the school day to help keep them focused. Having these toys available in the classroom or buying toys for your child to bring to and from school can aid them in their academic journey.
Continue reading to discover some of the best fidget toys for managing ADHD in the classroom.
Difficulties Children With ADHD May Face in School
Children with ADHD might experience more challenges in school than children without ADHD. Many schools have procedures to assist children with learning, such as giving students a distraction-free place to take exams. However, children with ADHD can still have difficulty in school. Some challenges might include:
Lack of physical activity: Besides the allotted recess time, children stay seated for most of the school day. Stillness can be difficult for some students with ADHD, for whom physical activity can be vital.
Trouble staying focused: Students with ADHD might struggle to focus for long periods, making classes and homework challenging.
Difficulty finishing work: Some students with ADHD may face challenges finishing their work due to distractions.
Being too talkative: Some students with ADHD might talk too much or be disruptive in the classroom.
Bonding with other students: Some children with ADHD might experience difficulty making friends at school. Children who are inattentive might seem shy to other students, while students experiencing hyperactivity might be met with disdain or aggression.
The 7 Best Toys for Managing ADHD in the Classroom
Aside from any systems already put in place by the school, there are ways to help children with ADHD be successful in school. Sensory toys may help students experiencing ADHD or anxiety in the classroom. You might find the following list of toys effective for classroom use:
1. Classroom Fidget Kit
Fidget toys help classroom focus. The Classroom Fidget Kit comes with various fidget toys for individuals with ADHD meant to help any student. This option is a good choice for teachers because it provides many different options for fidget toys. The toys also come in a convenient bag for easy portability and classroom storage. Children can use fidget toys during storytime, while waiting for other students to finish an exam, during a lesson or in other parts of the day requiring more focus.
2. Textured Marble Fidget Board
Moving around the marbles on a Textured Marble Fidget Board provides exploration and tactile learning. This fidget toy is special due to its unique design. It is colorful and glossy, adding a visual element to its tactile quality.
The colors and mirrored elements can have a calming effect on students who feel overwhelmed during the school day. Playing with fidget toys is also beneficial for children with anxiety, as it keeps their hands occupied during moments of stress.
3. Oral Motor Chew Sets
Chew tools are created specifically for use in therapy. They especially benefit children who crave chewing or children with oral motor problems. However, they can also be helpful for students with ADHD and can be used — with the teacher’s permission — in the classroom.
Chew Sets can help with breath control and muscle tone. These toys come in three levels — soft, medium and hard. Chew sets may be helpful for students with ADHD in the classroom if they experience distractedness even while their hands are occupied, such as during an exam or while taking notes.
4. Weighted Handwriting Glove
A Weighted Handwriting Glove can provide support and compression for students with ADHD who need to build fine motor skills for writing or self-help activities. This glove comes in sizes small, medium and large, and is made of soft cotton spandex with a weighted pouch that rests on the back of the hand. Items with compression can be comforting for kids with ADHD experiencing discomfort in school. Compression is also sometimes helpful for students experiencing anxiety.
5. Cuddly Mimbleballs
Mimbleballs are fluffy options for kids to hold and squeeze during school. These little buddies are soft and comforting and come in pink, white and green. They also have fun frizzy hair and adorable button eyes. Mimbleballs are machine washable, making them a perfect addition to your home or classroom. They’re also sure to put a smile on a kid’s face during gloomy or stressful days!
6. Ball Chairs
Ball Chairs are great for any child who has difficulty sitting still for prolonged periods of time. As a bonus, they also help with posture and balance. The chairs stay in place using locking casters, making them equally safe and effective.
You can put one of these chairs at your child’s desk at home so they can stay occupied while doing homework in the evening. If you’re a teacher, you can outfit your classroom with one or two of these chairs that students can use as needed.
7. Activity Wall Panels
One of the most stimulating toys for individuals with ADHD is an activity panel. Activity Wall Panels can add a fun and stimulating element to the classroom. These panels are solid wood, and you can choose between a horse, zebra or frog design, or you can mix and match so students have different choices! Each animal has different activities that help students develop eye-hand coordination, motor skills and cognitive skills.
All the different options come with different activities — kids will find new ways to play every time! Additionally, these wall panels help encourage children to play together. The ability to develop fine motor skills while playing with other students is important for students with ADHD, who sometimes face difficulties making friends in the classroom.
The Toys From Enabling Devices Can Help Your Child Focus at School
At Enabling Devices, we work with therapists, teachers and parents to create tools and toys built to make life more joyful for people with disabilities. We have more than 40 years of experience and are dedicated to working together to make devices that are useful, fun and innovative.
If you’re a parent or teacher looking to make a child’s schooling experience more enjoyable, we’ve got something for you. To get more information on our fidget toys for individuals with anxiety and ADHD, contact us today!
In 2019, over 7 million students with disabilities navigated learning obstacles while attending school. That’s 14% of total student enrollment. In a typical classroom setting, teachers aid these students by designing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that are structured with assistive technological support. Teachers follow the same steps in an online setting, but the available instruction methods and assistive technologies are vastly different. This post outlines the 10 most beneficial assistive technologies you can use in your online classroom, as well as their unique benefits.
What Is Assistive Technology in Special Education?
Assistive technology is any device, software or product that improves a person’s ability to perform a task. In a special education setting, students use assistive technology to achieve the learning goals defined in their IEP. These aids can be as simple as a calculator or as high-tech as speech recognition software.
Generally, assistive technology falls into three categories:
Low-tech: Technologies that don’t involve complex electronics or specialized software are considered low-tech. Some examples include graphic organizers and a pencil grip.
Mid-tech: Mid-tech assistive technologies enhance another technology’s performance. Examples include screen magnifiers, adapted switches and talking calculators.
High-tech: Assistive technologies are considered high-tech when they’re stand-alone technologies that enhance performance. Common examples include keyboard and mouse alternatives, word prediction programs and text-to-speech software.
In the classroom, teachers supply their students with assistive technologies knowing they can monitor usage and guide group instruction. In an online classroom, teachers lose the ability to administer physical assistive technologies. However, there are still many effective solutions that students can use from home — either individually or with the help of a caregiver.
How Can Assistive Technology Be Used to Help Students?
Assistive technologies help students navigate learning obstacles. For some students, this may mean reducing stimuli by going to a quiet and dimly lit room. Other students may require more support, like aligning math equations or having braille text. Assistive technology can be used for at-home education to help students do the following:
Hear and listen to instructions
Understand math concepts
Improve writing abilities
Write their thoughts and solutions completely and legibly
Read assigned text
Communicate with other students and faculty online
You can supply some assistive technologies as online resources that students can easily access. If you supply online resources, consider adding every resource to one webpage on your teaching module. That way, students don’t have to navigate through a handful of webpages.
Additionally, you can supply in-home assistive technologies, such as an alternative keyboard or braille printer. Your school may or may not be able to cover these costs. If not, make a suggestion to the students’ parents, but be prepared if the student simply can’t access high-tech assistive technologies.
The Benefits of Assistive Technology for Online Education
Assistive technology makes it easier for students to learn. Being able to take control of their education is huge for students with disabilities. For some, this feeling of control can even be life-changing. The use of various assistive technology devices in an online classroom facilitates the following benefits:
1. Instills a Sense of Independence
Students with disabilities overcome many challenges in their daily routine. At school, these challenges can make them feel dependent on others. Although there’s nothing wrong with receiving assistance, some students may feel different from their peers who don’t require the same teacher-student dependence.
Assistive technology restores students’ independence. It allows students to take charge of their own learning, manipulating technologies by themselves to achieve tasks independently.
2. Allows Students to Realize Their Potential
When students take charge of their learning, their newfound independence unlocks potential they didn’t know was possible. Stigmas and a lack of technology may have built boundaries that made it difficult, or impossible, for students to work around. With assistive technology, students don’t have to face the same obstacles. Students with disabilities have the potential to perform larger and more complex tasks, preparing them for a future of continued success.
3. Restores Confidence in Students With Disabilities
A sense of independence and unlocked potential helps students with disabilities feel more confident in themselves and their abilities. Without assistive technology, students may become frustrated when they can’t complete a task. With assistive technology, every task completed restores students’ self-esteem and willingness to complete more tasks.
4. Brings Students With Differing Abilities Together
Differing abilities can lead to social separation. At school, students learn foundational concepts they’ll use throughout their life, including social skills. It’s important for students of all abilities to interact with each other because:
Able-bodied students empathize with people different than them, breaking down the social stigma associated with differing abilities.
Students with disabilities feel included, strengthening their self-worth.
In an online setting, give everyone the same access to assistive technology. Giving only a handful of students access to assistive technology can make them feel excluded from the group. Offering everyone the same learning opportunities echoes the benefits outlined above.
10 Best Assistive Technology Tools for Teachers and Students
Online education is stressful for many teachers. Although special education is most often taught in-person, assistive technologies allow instruction to take place online. Meet with each student and, after designing their IEP, make a game plan. Prepare synchronous and asynchronous lesson plans. Reflecting on each IEP, think about the students’ learning obstacles and determine a list of assistive technologies that could help your student succeed.
Consider adding these 10 assistive technologies to your online instruction as needed:
High-Tech Assistive Technology
High-tech assistive technology students can use for online learning includes:
1. Speech Recognition Software
Speech recognition software, also known as speech-to-text, decodes the human voice to perform a defined behavior. An example you may be familiar with is the speech recognition software in modern smartphones. A single phrase activates the software, where you then use your voice to tell the software what to do. If you want to make a call, you can tell the software to call your friend, and the speech recognition software will start the call for you.
Students with disabilities, like those with a movement disorder, benefit from speech-to-text software because they don’t have to directly manipulate a keyboard or mouse. Also, students with stronger verbal than written skills can complete assignments like essays or short-response questions more easily.
2. Speech Synthesizer
Speech synthesizer, also known as text-to-speech, does the opposite — it reads text aloud to the students. A common example of text-to-speech software is an audiobook. The software picks up syllables, speech patterns, dates, abbreviations and more to piece together complete and coherent sentences.
Students can use speech-to-text and text-to-speech software together. That way, students can talk to their speech software, and their speech software can talk back. This two-way relationship benefits students who are visually impaired or who have a hard time deciphering sentence and word structures.
3. Electronic Math Worksheets
Students with dyscalculia have a hard time understanding math concepts. Numbers are difficult to differentiate, and aligning math formulas proves challenging. Electronic math worksheets are software programs that help students align formulas, work through problems and organize their thoughts in a single space.
Electronic math worksheets work in tandem with text-to-speech software, reading math problems aloud. Some software has built-in talking calculators, so students don’t have to transfer attention back-and-forth between worksheets and calculators. This makes it easy for students with visual impairments to complete their work, as well as students with attention deficits.
4. Word Prediction Program
When students type with a physical or on-screen keyboard, word prediction programs help them translate their thoughts into complete sentences. As a student completes assignments, word prediction programs detect their speech patterns. As they type more, the program suggests words the students can click or tap.
Word prediction programs are valuable tools for students with general writing issues. Some students have a hard time typing on their keyboard, and word prediction programs can save them a lot of time. Others have a hard time slowing their mind down to complete coherent sentences. Whatever the case, every student can benefit from this type of software.
5. Alternative Keyboards and Mice
Some students have difficulties using traditional keyboards and mice. The fine and gross motor movements can be difficult for students with limited mobility, and students with visual impairments may find it hard to read keyboard fonts.
There are a number of alternative keyboards and mice available. Most are compatible with modern computers and laptops. Some alternative keyboards and mice attributes include:
Color-coded key groupings
Angled keyboard shapes
Provide parents with resources on where they can find an alternative keyboard or mouse that suits their student’s individual needs. Or, consider talking to your school administrator about supplying these keyboards and mice to students.
Mid-Tech Assistive Technology
Mid-tech assistive technology students can use for online learning includes:
6. Braille Support
Some students with visual impairments require Braille support to follow along with lessons. There are a handful of Braille support tools for online learning. Two of the most influential support tools are:
Refreshable Braille display: Most commonly, a Braille display device is a keyboard attachment that displays text from a computer screen. It takes information from the screen — wherever the cursor is — and raises or retracts the Braille characters to reflect the information displayed.
Braille printer: A Braille printer is like a normal printer, but instead of printing text in ink, it prints text in Braille. This assistive technology is especially useful when distributing textbook pages or worksheets.
Many traditional schools have Braille printers available. It’s harder to distribute Braille text in an online setting if the student doesn’t have a Braille printer in their home. Braille support requires solid parent-teacher communication because not everyone can afford Braille displays or printers.
7. Proofreading Programs
Some students with disabilities find it hard to type and form complete sentences. Proofreading programs are similar to word prediction software, except they don’t think ahead. Instead, proofreading programs read what students have already written and make suggestions based on grammar principles.
A lot of proofreading programs are free and students can install proofreading programs on their web browser. As they type, the program will correct mistakes, provide quick translation, define words when prompted and act as a personal trainer.
8. Talking Calculator
A talking calculator is like an average calculator, except it has a built-in speech synthesizer that vocalizes numbers, operations, symbols and solutions. Talking calculators are particularly helpful for students who are visually impaired. When working through solutions, the calculator confirms they clicked the right number and will vocalize the calculated solution.
Talking calculators may also be beneficial for students with other disabilities. The added element of verbal confirmation can help students stay focused and engaged. Students can find online talking calculators. Or, they may prefer purchasing a physical talking calculator.
Low-Tech Assistive Technology
Low-tech assistive technology students can use for online learning includes:
Transitioning from task to task: Switching tasks can feel overwhelming for students, especially those with an autism spectrum disorder. Having a timer helps students mentally prepare for the switch and maintain their motivation.
Staying on task: When students see the timer ticking down, they may feel more motivated to complete their tasks before the timer finishes.
Promoting independence: Timing a task tells students what they need to do and how much time they have to do it. This sense of control promotes independence for students.
You can use a digital timer, keep a timer in-view on your webcam or encourage students to buy their own timers to keep on their desks.
10. Graphic Organizers and Outlining Programs
Students have a busy schedule. Graphic organizers and outlining programs are important for students with learning disabilities because they keep their schedule manageable. A busy schedule can feel very overwhelming for students, lessening their attention span and willingness to learn.
On your teacher module, outline your program the best you can. Keep a public calendar that lists synchronous due dates. Also, send notifications to students to remind them to add other important dates and times, like one-on-one instruction. Keep the same line of communication with the students’ parents, too.
Browse Learning Aids for Online Teaching at Enabling Devices
Teaching special education online is new for many teachers. Enabling Devices offers assistive technologies that help students learn from the comfort of their homes when paired with the right instruction. For 40 years, we’ve designed assistive tools that satisfy today’s growing needs. If you’re a teacher or administrator looking for ways to strengthen your online teaching, browse our assistive technologies today. For immediate service, give us a call at 914-747-3070.
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!
Whether your child is a virtual student or you want to supplement their in-school learning with online resources, you have a range of options to choose from. Learning from home takes some considerations, especially if you have a child with disabilities. But it can also provide an excellent opportunity to encourage your child and adapt their learning activities to fit their needs.
We’ve compiled some of our favorite educational resources into one list that’s a great place to start when looking for learning from home resources. Whether your child is learning virtually or you’re looking for ways to keep them engaged during the summer months, check out these tools and get started!
15 At-Home Learning Resources for Parents
You probably find yourself spending a lot more time helping your child through their classes, whether they’re virtual or in-person. We get it — most parents aren’t trained as teachers. And even the best school districts may not offer just the right content to meet each student’s needs.
Even with quality public instruction from your child’s school, you may choose to supplement learning at home. But finding the right tools at the right price can be tricky. It doesn’t have to be! With the right options — including free resources — you can help your child make the most of whatever educational environment they find themselves in this year.
1. Reach for the Stars With NASA Online
If your child has an interest in science and space, go right to the source! The best place to learn about space is from the folks at NASA. Dive into NASA’s Space Place, an interactive site where kids can learn all about our solar system and the universe we live in. Your child will explore the wonders of the universe by watching videos with bright colors and movement, or you can help them with space-themed activities.
You can help your child discover the Big Bang theory with the more tactile activity of making glittery, stretchy universe slime. Or discover ions in action with a fun static electricity activity. From learning about the phases of the moon to watching a video of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flying around, kids can get an up-close look at the universe around them through visually engaging content and tactile experiences.
2. Tour the National Museum of Natural History From Home
View all the Smithsonian has to offer from the comfort of your own home. This virtual tour allows students of all ages to take in the exhibits at this world-class museum. View their extensive permanent collection of dinosaur fossils, gemstones and other fascinating exhibits. Bright, eye-catching colors and textures will help keep your child engaged as they click through or listen to information about each exhibit. Discover the diversity of rich patterns and shapes in our natural world.
3. Head to the Zoo or Tour the Farm
We just can’t get enough of virtual field trips! Taking a virtual trip to the zoo or farm is an ideal way to experience a variety of animals and learn all about their behavior. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden offers behind-the-scenes tours of various animal enclosures, and they’re all on their Facebook page for you to watch! Each video focuses on one animal at a time, allowing children to learn about one specific animal before moving on to the next one.
Or, discover where food comes from with interactive virtual farm tours. FarmFood 360 offers 360-degree video tours of different types of farms, including egg, beef, dairy and chicken farms. Your child will stay engaged by clicking around the screen or tilting a mobile device to virtually tour farms. Scamper with the pigs during feeding time, or relax among the gently waving apple trees as workers pick the bright red treats.
4. Wind Down With Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Say “Goodnight” with famed singer Dolly Parton as she reads bedtime stories online. Accompanied by an activity sheet and songs, these read-out-loud videos are a great way to wind down at naptime or at the end of a long day. Your child can follow along with the textured and brightly colored pages of popular children’s storybooks as Dolly’s relaxing Southern voice lulls them to sleep. You’ll also find resources for reading tips for parents to help keep your child engaged with storytime.
5. Get Fit With School of Strength
If your child is interested in sports or even just needs to get out their extra energy, the Special Olympics School of Strength is an excellent free resource for athletes with special needs and their coaches and caregivers. The series includes four videos under 10 minutes to help your child warm up and build their endurance, strength and balance.
For children who crave more activity, try the 30-minute-long extra-credit videos with celebrity trainer Shannon Decker and Special Olympic athletes. The site also includes minute-long extra-credit challenges, like frog jumps and side-to-side bouncing, accompanied by quick gifs and easy-to-follow steps for quick workouts.
Modify the videos for your child’s athletic ability with three different levels of exercises — superstar, champion and master trainer. Give your child the best experience with tools for coaches and caregivers that explain the various workouts, how to empower athletes, healthy foods and drinks and workout calendars.
6. Explore Early Exercise With Young Athletes At Home
Help your child grow their motor skills and confidence with Special Olympics Young Athletes at Home. Young Athletes at Home includes different activities tailor-made to build your child’s skills and prepare them for school by teaching them physical skills, turn-taking and following directions. Easy-to-follow flashcards detail activities for all ages and abilities, such as beginner obstacle courses with household items, dance games with place markers and activities like pretending to be different animals.
Activities on the flashcards are meant to build foundational skills like:
Health and fitness
Dribbling and other, more advanced sports skills
Young Athletes also helps you figure out safe places to play with your child, how you can encourage your child’s development during activities and how to promote daily healthy play. It even details everyday household items you can use like tape or stickers instead of gym floor markers and empty cups instead of cones. Follow those and other tips to create visually engaging exercise activities for your child.
7. Discover Inclusive Education Resources Through Educating All Learners Alliance
As a parent of a child with a disability, you may have experienced the challenges of remote education. Educating All Learners Alliance, or EALA, is a group of inclusive education organizations that supports the educational needs of students with disabilities. EALA has online learning resources for parents and educators who work with students with disabilities. Specific resources include teaching and learning strategies, information about particular intervention services like speech and physical therapy, fostering social and emotional well-being and best family communication practices.
The organization also offers webinars to discuss various disability and education concepts. Common topics include discussions on how families can use EALA resources, other families’ experiences with hybrid and remote learning, information on the most recent accessibility education technology, national disability policies and other best inclusive education practices.
8. Make Reading Easier With Bookshare
Students with learning disabilities, dyslexia or physical disabilities sometimes have trouble reading in a traditional sense. But with Bookshare, qualifying students with disabilities in the U.S. can enjoy more than 1 million titles for free. Your child will be able to read on the device of their choosing, whether they prefer to use a laptop, smartphone, e-books or an assistive device.
Your child will be empowered to customize their reading experience to their needs. Bookshare allows children with disabilities to curate their e-reading experience with adjusted reading speed and multiple fonts and colors. They can also choose from a variety of reading methods, including read-along highlighting, listening to their books or reading in braille. Plus, Bookshare even allows students to add bookmarks and notes and use partner apps and study tools to help them process the information they’re reading.
9. Learn From Home With Do2Learn
If you’re searching for a well-established learning resource for kids with disabilities, Do2 Learn has you covered. Founded in 1996, Do2Learn provides resources for parents and teachers of children with special needs. It offers fun activities for students to build different academic skills like fine motor development, language skills, math and learning strategies, in addition to providing educational resources for building social and behavioral management skills. The site even features picture card resources for people with language difficulties to help develop and communicate daily life skills!
10. Use Chrome Extensions to Maximize Web Accessibility
With Google Chrome browser extensions, you can maximize webpage accessibility right from your browser. Authorized Google Education Trainer and Certified Innovator Eric Curts has compiled a list of Chrome browser extensions for easy readability, increased focus and comprehension and easier navigation. Tools include:
Dictionaries and picture dictionaries
Font replacements for people with reading disorders like dyslexia
Other services help with focus, like horizontal reading bars and ad-blockers.
11. Boost Communications Skills With Seaver Autism Center
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, schools sent children home for remote learning. While this move was challenging for most families, it was especially difficult for many children with autism. Because attending school is a significant source of socialization and professional support for students, many parents are searching for resources and activities to help their children develop conversation skills. The Seaver Autism Center has online learning resources for parents to help their children continue to grow in their ability to communicate effectively.
The Center has hosted webinar series on topics like advice for overcoming sensory issues while wearing masks, strategies on combatting anxiety as businesses and public places re-open and how caregivers can take care of themselves during this time. Additional resources include games like Simon Says, charades and using a conversation ball. The Center also has a plethora of general information and resources for parents of children with autism.
12. Get Away With Easterseals Recreation and Camping
All children should have the opportunity to attend camp. Easterseals is the largest camping and recreation services provider for people with disabilities in the U.S., with 30 camps across the country. Services include both day and residential camping with a variety of barrier-free recreation options like water sports, campfires, arts and crafts, horseback riding, bingo and dances. Your child can discover their independence in a safe place away from home while developing their interests, learning how to work on a team and create life-long friendships.
But beyond providing an accessible camp experience for both children and adults with disabilities, Easterseals also provides respite services for both you as a caregiver and your child with special needs. You can rest, relax and connect with other caregivers through support groups and retreats with the peace of mind that your child is safe. Plus, their blog and brain health center resources also include great information for parents of children with special needs.
13. Join a Parent Group
Parents of children with special needs have particular concerns for their families and child care. By joining a parent group, you’ll discover a range of resources, like information about your child’s school, learning at home resources and which local medical professionals are best with children with disabilities. You’ll also be able to share and relate to other families’ experiences. Parent groups are a great educational resource for emotional support and learning more about your child’s disability.
If you’re looking to speak one-on-one with someone going through a similar experience as you, check out the Parent to Parent Program. Parent to Parent USA is a great resource to find fellow parents whose child has the same disability as yours. You can also find parent groups for specific disabilities. By talking to other parents, you’ll be able to share your experiences and gain insight and tips from other caregivers.
14. Research State-Run Programs
Beyond privately-run parent groups, states also have resources to support parents of children with disabilities. While some groups are state-specific, each state has a Parent Training and Information Center, or PTI. Some states also have Community Parent Resource Centers, or CPRCs, which local parenting organizations run. These groups can provide you with information about your child’s disability, resources available to your family and how you can effectively support your child.
15. Consult How-To Resources for Parents
A big part of helping your child through at-home learning is knowing how to provide them with the emotional support they need. Even more than reading, writing and math lessons, children need the love and support of their parents.
Shop Assistive Technologies and Tools With Enabling Devices
Since our founding nearly 40 years ago, Enabling Devices has been committed to providing products that help individuals with disabilities lead more productive, fulfilling lives. We firmly believe that a disability shouldn’t prevent you from learning, growing and making the most of what the world has to offer. It just means it’s time to get creative! We are proud to offer a variety of products to assist with learning, play and communications for children and adults.
COVID-19 is taking a toll on all of us. We’re afraid of contracting the virus, worried about unemployment and the loss of financial security, grieving for those who have died and are sick and uncertain about when and if life will ever return to normal. For individuals with disabilities and their families, worries may be even greater. According to the CDC, most hospitalized COVID-19 patients — 90% — of hospitalized patients have one or more underlying conditions.
At Enabling Devices, we’re all about making life easier for our customers and community. To that end, we’ve compiled some information about new legislation and resources that may help individuals and families during this unprecedented time.
It’s been about two months since President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law. The law provides more than $2 trillion in direct aid for workers, families, hospitals, small businesses and local governments fighting the coronavirus.
If your adjusted gross income is less than $75,000 a year as an individual or $150,000 for a couple, you may have already received a no-strings-attached payment of $1200 to offset losses of income due to the pandemic. If not, it should arrive any day. Families in that income bracket with dependents will also receive $500 per child. If your income is higher, but still less than $99,000 per individual or $198,000 per couple, you are entitled to some portion of $1,200.
For more specific information, check out this May 6 article in Business Insider. Another good source for details especially pertinent to individuals with disabilities and their families is howtogeton.wordpress. We don’t know yet whether stimulus checks will be a one-time thing. Currently, some lawmakers are pushing the federal government to issue another round of stimulus checks. Fingers crossed!
Enabling Devices’ school customers may be particularly interested in the CARES Act’s funding of the $30 billion Education Stabilization Fund. The Fund is distributed between the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund; The Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund (ESSER Fund); and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER Fund), which has the most flexible guidelines of the three. GEER, which was announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on April 14, is an emergency block grant of $3 billion that provides funding for students, schools and other educational institutions. GEER gives governors the power to distribute funds at their own discretion. Funds can be used to cover expenses including COVID-19 response efforts, afterschool and summer learning programs, nutrition and mental health services, internet and remote learning and technology-related purchases.
While $30 billion may sound like a great deal of money, given the length of the pandemic, education groups are clamoring for more. According to Education Week, several education groups including two teachers unions told congress in early April, that they needed “upwards of $200 billion in new aid.” Now, writes Education Week, House Democrats have proposed The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes Act).The Heroes Act would create a $90 billion “state fiscal stabilization fund” for the U.S. Department of Education to distribute to K-12 as well as higher education. If approved by the U.S. Senate, schools would see approximately $60 billion dollars in funding for education including $12 billion for special education.
COVID-19 Resources for People with Disabilities or Chronic Conditions
The National Homework Hotline for Blind/Visually Impaired Students (NHH-BVI) is offering free homework help and tutoring for students from kindergarten through college affected by school closures due to the coronavirus.
The GHLF is providing free support program for individuals with chronic health conditions and their families during the pandemic. Users will be able to find the latest information about COVID-19 as well as free support services.
6. Vocational Rehab Services
On May 14, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Rehabilitation Services and Special Education released guidelines for vocational rehabilitation services during the pandemic. As reported by Disability Scoop, “Vocational rehabilitation agencies can continue to serve individuals with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, though some adjustments may be needed…” Essentially, services including job coaching, career counseling, pre-employment transition services. You can get more details here.
You can count on Sesame Street to provide help for children and families. The nonprofit’s campaign #CaringForEachOther, includes ideas for stay-at-home activities; parenting videos; and advice for all sorts of COVID-19-related situations you are likely to confront with your children.
RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that works to fight stigma and provide opportunities to individuals with disabilities are offering Zoom gatherings facilitated by expert advocates to encourage community connection, resource sharing, and COVID-19-related information and problem-solving.
The Arc, a national, community-based nonprofit that serves individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families, is a great source for up-to-the-minute information about COVID-19 that’s specifically relevant to the disabilities community. On thearc.org, you can read about legislative advocacy efforts, and find fact sheets about unemployment benefits; the small business bill; recovery rebates and more.
Enabling Devices will continue to update resources as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. Meanwhile, we wish all our customers safety and wellness.
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