Thursday, December 20, 2012

The gift of adapted toys for kids with special needs

When Max was two, one of his favorite toys was a battery-operated puppy with an adaptive switch; all he had to do with hit a big blue button and the puppy would bark and walk. (I can still hear that yap-yap-yapping in my dreams). Playing with toys was challenging for Max because his fingers and hands were stiff. So the pup was great, both because of the fun factor and because it gave Max confidence that, yes, he had the power to play. His hands could make things happen.

Yappy Puppy (not his real name) also came in handy for inspiring Max to move his body; the physical therapist would place the switch just out of reach, and Max would have to wiggle his way over to it. Dave and I used to joke that if Yappy Puppy got Max to bark, that would be great, too, because he wasn't making many sounds back then. (Ah, special needs parent humor.)

Adapted toys and switches can be costly, but a bunch of kids recently received 135 toys and switches for free at a very special holiday party thrown by the East Tennessee Technology Access Center in Knoxville. The nonprofit's motto—"Where disabilities become possibilities"—speaks to its mission to inform people with disabilities about tech devices that can educate them and enable them to lead more independent, productive lives.

After receiving a grant from CVS Caremark Charitable Trust for tools and supplies, a group including occupational therapists, retired engineers, electricians and high school and college students started working on adapting more than 100 battery-operated toys donated by the community.

Do try this at home: Adapters attached a wooden knob to a button on top of a toy truck so that a child with downward gross-motor movement could easily activate it.

This boy got a voice-activated penguin

Happiness is an adaptive cuddly dog!

Giving toys to kids in needs during the holiday season is always wonderful, but giving the gift of accessibility is especially awesome. 

What sort of experiences have you had using adapted toys and switches? Will your child be getting one for the holidays?

This is one of a series of posts sponsored by CVS Caremark All Kids Can, a commitment to helping children of all abilities be the best they can be. Like them on Facebook!


  1. I would for my son to have a toy that would stimulate him. He has Downs and just turned 5. He usually is very uninterested in toys but in the past year or so, I realized that toys that light up captures his attention in small intervals. I researched a few websites for toys for special needs children but it was so overwhelming for me. I am the lady at Christmas that walks up and down the same aisle ( early learners aisle) about 20 times trying to find a gift appropriate for my little boy. I feel defeated at times.

  2. They look so happy! Disabilities never hinder happiness.

  3. Coops loved his switch toy when he was smaller, a Spider-Man on a bike! He uses a switch adapted mouse for the computer but we need to start looking at eye gaze systems next year too x

  4. Our two year old grandson is going to be receiving an adapted tricycle for Christmas. It has special pedals so that his feet can stay on them. It also has a seat belt! Like other tricycles on the market, it also has a handle on the back so that his parents can hang on.

  5. We have racked our brains to find textured things for our blind 3 year old girl. Not necessarily toys but items to broaden her perception of the world. Her favorite one she discovered herself at "the pumpkin patch" at Halloween...the bumpiest gourd you ever saw! Also, we have taught her all the shapes (standard) circle, star, triangle, etc. We recently bought some floating bathtub toys and there were 2 odd shapes...indescribable. When she felt them she described one as "a cloud shape" and the other as "an art shape". That may not seem too impressive to some, but it tickled us pink!!

  6. My neighbor's little girl aged nearly four used to have a playmat she would lie on. For her fourth birthday she will receive a custom made tricycle, she has spina bifida as well.


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...