Gift Guide for People With Special Needs

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!

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More Inclusive Toys Are Being Made

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.

Holiday Gift Guide for Those with Special Needs

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.

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2. Creative Art Bundle

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 color spinout, swirl art and a motorized squiggle wiggle writer pen. The color spinout and swirl art painting machine 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 Bundle

If you’re looking for a gift for a child whose special needs mean they need to develop their sensory awareness, the Sensory Bundle is a great option. This bundle can be used on its own or incorporated into a sensory space at home or school. This bundle includes a Somatosensory Tube for improving grasping skills, as well as a Fiber Optic Sensory Light and the Go Anywhere Light Show.

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?

Wheelchair Attachments

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:

1. Sorting

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.

4. Problem-Solving

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.

5. Self-Esteem

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 Aquarium. 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.

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Communicator Gifts for Those With Special Needs

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 Seal 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!

15 At-Home Learning Resources for Parents

15 At-Home Learning Resources for Parents

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.

Reach for the stars

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
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Balancing
  • Jumping
  • Throwing
  • Catching
  • Striking objects
  • Kicking
  • 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.

Discover Inclusive Education Resources Through Educating All Learners Alliance

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!

As a parent, you’ll also be able to research more about disability. You can explore the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s definitions of disability, how school districts and early intervention centers evaluate children for different disabilities, the characteristics of multiple cognitive disabilities and strategies to address them. Additionally, you can review your rights as a parent with a child receiving special education services.

Use Chrome Extensions to Maximize Web Accessibility

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:

  • Word prediction
  • Dictionaries and picture dictionaries
  • Text-to-speech
  • Voice typing
  • 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.

The Child Mind Institute offers resources for parents to help them talk to their children about some of today’s most pressing topics, including disappointment, back-to-school anxiety and fear of getting sick. They also offer resources for parents of children with autism, including topics such as managing anxiety, telehealth and revising an IEP for distance learning.

Shop Assistive Technologies and Tools With Enabling Devices

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.

Browse our shop or contact us for help finding the right products for your needs.

10 Resources for Getting Through the Pandemic

Resources for Getting Through

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.

 COVID-19 Legislation to Help Families and Schools

1. The CARES Act

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!

2. Education Stabilization Fund

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.

3. Heroes Act

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

4. National Homework Help for Visually Impaired

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.

5. Global Healthy Living Foundation

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.

7. Child Mind Institute Resources

The Child Mind Institute, an independent national nonprofit for children and families with mental health and learning challenges is offering a range of services and resources during the pandemic. Offerings include Facebook Live chats with experts; remote evaluations, telehealth and flat-fee phone consultations for parenting questions and videos concerning COVID-19 issues.

8. Sesame Street Resources

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.

9. RespectAbility Zoom Gatherings

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.

10. The Arc

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, 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.

Six Ways to Stay Safe When Complete Social Distancing Isn’t an Option

social distancing

We’ve all heard that “social distancing” is an important part of containing the spread of the COVID-19, the new coronavirus. But maintaining a distance of at least six feet away from another individual is impossible when that individual is your caregiver. Many people with disabilities rely on a caregiver outside of their household to help them with eating, bathing, walking, toileting and dressing. So what’s the best way to stay healthy in these instances? Here’s what some of the experts recommend:

1. Educate yourself about COVID-19 prevention
Be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19, and contact your health care provider if you believe you or a loved one has contracted the virus. Stay abreast of recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for protecting yourself and others from contracting the virus.

2. Contact your home health care provider
If your caregiver works for a health care agency, Easter Seals New Jersey advises you to contact “their representatives and find out more about what precautions they are taking to ensure their staff is following proper protocols to ensure they do not spread the disease.”

3. Be assertive
Don’t shy away from conversations regarding home and personal hygiene. Make sure your provider is observing guidelines for handwashing and disinfecting surfaces and equipment. If your provider has access to masks and gloves, insist that they wear them. Have your provider use a different bathroom if possible. These actions will help to protect both of you.

4. Take extra measures to protect yourself and your caregiver
New advises wheelchair users to “regularly disinfect surfaces, especially those that are regularly touched. High-concentration (70%) ethanol alcohol mixtures, hydrogen peroxide and bleach are all effective disinfectants. Manual wheelchair users, especially those at higher risk of severe symptoms due to secondary complications, should consider regularly disinfecting their push rims. Bleach wipes are easy and effective.”

5. Hold residential facilities to enhanced standards
If you or your loved one resides in a group home, nursing facility, etc., make sure they are following recommended protocols such as: enhanced cleanliness; no visitation; staggered meal times, daily temperature taking and cancellation of group activities.

6. Have a back-up plan
If your caregiver becomes ill and is unable to come to work, be sure to have a back-up plan in place ahead of time. This is easier said than done, acknowledges New Mobility. Some solutions to consider include: asking friends or family members to help where they can; obtaining the proper supplies and training to complete certain tasks by yourself; and making others aware of your medical status and health care needs in case of an emergency.

Stay well!

Inclusive Theater Plays a Role in Under the Radar 2020

Four actors with disabilities on stage

In 2019, the theatrical world was taken by storm when three actors with disabilities appeared on Broadway.

Ali Stoker, who is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair, played Ado Annie in “Oklahoma”; Russel Harvard, who is deaf, played the Duke of Cornwall in “King Lear”; and John McGinty, also deaf, played Harvard’s understudy.

While these performances were groundbreaking, it remains true that Broadway, (and Hollywood), are far behind where they should be when it comes to inclusion. And if roles for actors with physical disabilities are hard to find, opportunities for actors with developmental and intellectual disabilities are even rarer.

That’s why the 16th annual Under the Radar Festival at New York City’s Public Theater seems so revolutionary!

A vehicle for showcasing the theatrical work of new, diverse and emerging artists, this year’s festival includes two productions starring performers with disabilities. As New York Times theater critic Jesse Green points out in a Jan.13 review, titled “When Disability Isn’t a Special Need but a Special Skill,” the actors’ disabilities only serve to enhance their performances.

Actor Jess Thom who has Tourette’s syndrome plays “Mouth,” in Samuel Beckett’s “Not I.” Due to her Tourette’s, Thom’s performances are unpredictable. She is likely to go off script at any time due to her verbal and physical tics. Yet that is, in part, what makes her performance so special, contends Green. “…Far from masking Beckett’s brilliance or diluting the play’s power, Thom’s speech patterns make uncanny sense of ‘Not I,’ in the process making it more overwhelming,” he writes.

Performances of “Not I” are “relaxed,” meaning that people are encouraged to tic, talk and move around the theater as needed. An American Sign Language interpreter/performer is present for every performance.

“The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes,” another play in the festival, is written and acted by Scott Price, Sarah Mainwaring, Simon Laherty and Michael Chan, who all have intellectual disabilities. The play is set at a community meeting where attendees explore serious topics such as disability, identity, labeling and the social impact of technology and artificial intelligence. Writes Green: “Soon we discover that the meeting has been called for the purpose not of justifying the neurodiverse but of warning the rest of us about a future in which the technology we’ve created will one day, like the shadow of the title, render everyone inferior — disabled, in fact.”

Now that’s food for thought!

For more information about the Under the Radar Festival, visit

New Year’s Resolutions for Special Educators

Group of Students as a table with their teacher

The beginning of a brand new year is the perfect time to set resolutions for the year ahead. Are you hoping to develop more patience, take a professional development course, try a new teaching technique, or focus on personal growth? These are all worthwhile goals. Yet, setting resolutions doesn’t guarantee you will keep them. One goal setting method that many find helpful is the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for the words: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; and Timely. According to Chris Joseph, writing for Chron, “setting S.M.A.R.T. goals can help keep you motivated and provide a way to measure your progress during your journey.” Here are some examples of New Year’s resolutions for special educators:

Keep good records
Beginning Jan. 1, I will spend 30 minutes per day writing three sentence long progress notes on five students. By the end of each week, I will have completed progress notes on 25 students. Keeping regular notes on each student will make life so much easier when it’s time for parent conferences and report cards.

Take your lunch break
This semester I will take a 40-minute-long lunch hour at least three days a week.

As helping professionals, neglecting our own needs can be an occupational hazard. Yet, finding time to eat a nutritious and relaxed midday meal isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Your students will benefit from your improved mood and higher energy.

Get out of the classroom
This semester, I will take a 20-minute walk to clear my head and get some exercise. Just as it’s important to eat well, it’s equally important to get fresh air and exercise. A brisk walk around the campus or the neighborhood surrounding your school can work wonders for your physical and mental health.

Be organized
On the last Friday of every month, I will spend one hour sorting through the paper on my desk and in my drawers to keep myself organized. We all know how overwhelming it can be when we can’t find the documents and supplies we need to do our jobs. Organizing our work spaces can spell the difference between feeling stressed and discombobulated and feeling empowered.

Keep learning
By Feb. 15, I will sign up for one continuing education class in a subject that will help me to grow professionally. It’s natural to be apprehensive about returning to the classroom as a student, but there’s nothing like professional development to give us renewed energy and inspiration for our careers.

Invest in personal growth
By March 1, I will register for a class or activity that will enrich my personal life. All work and no play makes Jack or Jill a dull (and unhappy) boy or girl. Make sure to get out there and do something special for yourself. Self-care will make you a much better educator.

Eight Ways to Thank Wounded Warriors on Veterans Day

Veteran in Wheelchair in front of an American Flag

On Veterans Day, Enabling Devices salutes our veterans, especially those who have service-connected disabilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.7 million veterans, or 25 percent of all veterans, had a service-connected disability.

Interested in honoring our disabled veterans this Veteran’s Day? Consider volunteering or making a donation to an organization that supports them. Here are some of the most reputable:

Wounded Warrior Project
Founded in 2003, WWP provides a range of services to veterans who sustained physical or mental injuries, or illnesses during military service that was performed on or after Sept. 11, 2001. WWP also offers support services to family and caregivers of wounded veterans including benefits and career counseling; mental health services such as PTSD treatment and stress reduction; and physical fitness training programs.

Disabled American Veterans
DAV’s stated mission is “empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity”. Their efforts include “fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.” The organization provides veterans with over 600,000 rides to medical appointments and helps veterans complete more than 200,000 benefit claims. DAV’s services are free to veterans of every war and their families. There are 1,300 chapters all over the United States.

Puppies Behind Bars
This multifaceted nonprofit organization trains inmates to raise service dogs for wounded veterans, and bomb-detecting dogs for use in law enforcement. The dogs are specially trained to work with veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. Since the program started in 2008, 66 dogs have been paired with wounded veterans in 26 states.

Homes for Our Troops
Approximately 11 percent of the homeless in the U.S. are veterans. Homes for Our Troops, founded in 2004, builds and donates accessible houses for severely injured veterans of post 9/11 wars. The organization also adapts existing homes so that injured veterans can continue to live in them.

Fisher House, Inc.
With an A+ rating from CharityWatch, you can feel secure that your donation is going to good use when you support Fisher House, Inc. Fisher House provides nearby temporary housing for families of veterans who are hospitalized for an injury or illness. To date, Fisher House has built 84 locations on military installations and on VA campuses. The program also gives scholarships for veterans, their children and spouses and raises money for the travel needs of families of hospitalized veterans.

Semper Fi Fund
Another A+ rated charity, Semper Fi is committed to providing the resources severely injured veterans require to recover and transition back into civilian life. The organization offers three distinct programs — the service member and family support program which provides direct financial assistance and programs for veterans and their loved ones; the transition program that provides education and career assistance to help veterans to live productive lives despite their injuries; and the integrative health program which offers a variety of physical and mental health programs and therapeutic activities.

Hope for the Warriors
Hope for the Warriors offers a spectrum of services to wounded veterans and their families including physical and mental health and wellness programs; transition services; and sports and recreation activities. The Hope for Warriors Wish program fulfills wishes for wounded warriors who need financial assistance to fulfill their dreams.

Gary Sinese Foundation
Supporting veterans had always been important to actor Gary Sinese. But after 9/11, he stepped up his volunteer and fundraising efforts on behalf of the men and women who defend our country. In 2011, he founded the Gary Sinese Foundation which offers programs such as R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), a program that builds adapted homes and modifies homes and cars for severely injured veterans. The Foundation’s Relief and Resiliency programs provide recreational activities to the children of fallen heroes, as well as mental health and financial assistance to veterans and their families. In addition, the Foundation’s Community and Education branch helps to raise awareness about the issues facing military families, and provides meals and arts and entertainment experiences to active military and veteran communities. The Gary Sinese Foundation also serves the needs of first responders.


CDC Sees Increase in Diagnoses of Developmental Disabilities

Pediatrician Examining a Girl with Down Syndrome

In recent years, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder has been steadily rising. In fact, the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network found that one in 59 children carry a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. New research suggests that it’s not only autism that’s becoming more prevalent — the numbers of children diagnosed with at least one developmental disability has also increased.

The October 2019 issue of the journal Pediatrics reported that between 2009 and 2017, the number of children ages 3-17 diagnosed with at least one developmental disability rose from 16.2 percent in 2009 to 17.8 percent (or one in 6 children) in 2017.

Data for the study, “Prevalence and Trends of Developmental Disabilities among Children in the United States: 2009–2017” included the health information of 88,000 children using the “National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative survey of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Parents reported physician or other health care professional diagnoses of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; autism spectrum disorder; blindness; cerebral palsy; moderate to profound hearing loss; learning disability; intellectual disability; seizures; stuttering or stammering; and other developmental delays.” 

As reported by Disability Scoop’s Michelle Diament, “the prevalence of autism, intellectual disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder increased during [2009 and 2017] while there was a decrease in the percentage of kids in the catch-all category of ‘other developmental delay.’”

The survey found that the greatest increases in diagnoses occurred among boys, Caucasian and Hispanic children, older youngsters, children who lived in cities and those whose mothers were relatively uneducated.

Though the survey didn’t look at the causes of the increase in developmental disabilities diagnoses, the CDC hypothesized that “previous research has found improved awareness, screening, diagnosis, and service accessibility may contribute to the increases seen.”

That could be good news, since early intervention is key in improving the prognoses for children with developmental disabilities. Programs like the CDC’s Learn the Signs, Act Early help families to identify developmental disabilities early so that they can access services and resources that can address their children’s deficits. Though developmental disabilities aren’t curable, children who receive the services they need are more likely to be successful in school and in other areas of their lives.

Examples of early intervention may include speech and language therapy; physical therapy; occupational therapy; hearing and vision services; psychological services; social work services; nutrition services; and medical and nursing interventions. Children with developmental disabilities have the greatest chance for success if they receive appropriate therapies between the ages of birth and 3 years old.

Five Reasons to Bring a Pet into Your Child’s Life

Little boy hugging a Golden Retriever dog

Considering adding a pet to your household? If you have a child with a disability, the benefits of owning a pet can be significant. In fact, research has shown that pets can help children with physical and developmental disabilities in myriad ways. Here’s what the science says:

1. Pets encourage increased physical activity.
A 2017 case study at Oregon State University found that a program that incorporated the family dog into an exercise program for a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy “led to a wide range of improvements for the child, including physical activity as well as motor skills, quality of life and human-animal interactions.” Said study co-author Megan MacDonald: “They develop a partnership and the activities become more fun and challenging for the child.”

2. Pets help children with autism to form connections with others
Many children with autistic spectrum disorders have difficulty connecting to other people. Studies show that autistic children in homes with pet dogs, learn to make such connections. For example, a 2014 study published in the journal Pediatric Nursing, found that in families with dogs, 94 percent of children “were bonded” with them. And “children living with dogs interacted with them in play and/or sharing personal space,” noted researchers. In addition, having a pet also gave children an “opportunity to learn responsibility and companionship.”

3. Guinea pigs help to improve social skills
Can’t manage caring for a dog right now? How about a guinea pig, hamster, gerbil or even a turtle?  A study conducted at the Autism Resource Center at Hospital Bohars in France found that autistic children from families that owned pets “were better able to share toys and food with both parents and other kids and better able to comfort others than the pet-less children were.”

4. Pets reduce stress and improve mood in children with learning disabilities and ADHD
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.”

5. Fish tanks can be therapeutic for children with disruptive behaviors.
The calming effects of watching fish swim in a fish tank reduces behavioral problems in children with emotional and behavioral disabilities according to a study at the University of Pennsylvania. Other studies have shown that gazing at fish tanks also reduces anxiety as well as heart rate and blood pressure.




Strive for a Sensory-friendly Holiday Season

Girl in Santa Hat in Front of Christmas Tree

For many of us, the Christmas holiday season is the happiest time of the year. It’s a time to celebrate with family and friends, to give and receive gifts, to sample delicious baked treats and enjoy the beauty of holiday lights, decorations and caroling. But for children with sensory processing disorders, Christmas can present significant sensory integration challenges. Here are some steps that will help make the holidays happy for every member of the family.

Turn down the lights
Though most children with sensory processing disorders enjoy the stimulation they receive from music and colorful, flashing lights, the holiday season may offer too much of a good thing. If you’re planning a trip to a Christmas lights display in your neighborhood, prepare your child in advance, and don’t over-do it. Make sure your child is well-rested and well-fed before making the excursion and set a time limit that takes your child’s sensory needs into account.

Beware of crowds
During the holiday season, we are more likely than ever to encounter large groups of people. Whether it’s holiday shopping at the mall, or attending a party or family gathering, large crowds can be overwhelming to children with sensory processing disorders. If you must take your child shopping, choose times when the stores are likely to be less crowded. Some malls are even designating certain shopping hours for families with children with sensory challenges. Likewise, when attending a big party, make sure you leave before your child becomes tired and over-stimulated. Bring along some of your child’s favorite toys or videos, and make sure there’s a quiet place where he can unwind if he needs to take a break from the action.

Lower the volume
Holiday music, Christmas carols and large groups of people can be too noisy for many children with sensory processing disorders. Noise cancelling headphones can make the difference between a child who’s having a melt-down and a child who’s enjoying holiday activities.

Respect your child’s tactile sensitivities
Sure, it’s disappointing when your child refuses to wear the special holiday outfit you’ve purchased for family photos! But forcing her to wear clothing that makes her physically uncomfortable is a no-win situation. Instead, choose an outfit you know she’ll enjoy wearing, even if it’s the same one she likes to wear every day.

Some children don’t like to be touched — especially by people they don’t know. Never insist that your child receive a hug or a kiss from a friend or relative against his wishes.

Whenever possible, stick to your child’s schedule
Many children with sensory processing disorders thrive on routine. But during the holiday season, routines are much harder to follow. While some flexibility is necessary, your child is likely to be a great deal happier if you adhere to his routine. For example, on evenings when no parties or family excursions are planned, follow his normal bedtime routine. Likewise, attempt to maintain your child’s usual diet and do your best to prevent her from binging on too many sweets.