Which are the best toys for children with disabilities or other special needs?
We try to identify the sort of toys that can be switch adapted or made switch accessible. Adapted toys give these kids more control over how they play and switch adapted play can teach them important cognitive skills.
At Excitim we are constantly looking to add new toys to our catalog that are:
- Bright and colorful: red, green, blue or yellow or combinations of many different colors. Partially sighted children may find high contrast colors especially helpful to recognize things like on / off buttons.
- Visible: kids with special needs often have additional sensory deficits and may not be able to see small items.
- Tactile: sensory feedback through touching the toy may be the only way for a child to recognize important features. Selecting toys that incorporate different fabrics, roughness or moulded-in textures may be helpful for a child with limited vision.
- Cleanable: some toys may be used by children who like to chew them or drool. Fabrics and surfaces that can be wiped clean are better and help keep the toy hygienic.
- Provide sensory feedback to the learner: fans are used to create air flow, bubbles especially if scented with a few drops of aromatic oil, lights, sounds, vibrations etc.
Imagine the scenario where an individual is unable to pick-up the toy or play with it, for whatever reason, in the way toy manufacturer originally intended. Our challenge is to overcome those ‘cool’ design features the manufacturer uses in a way that lets kids with disabilities or other special needs still play with it.
Switch adapted play can be the answer.
What sort of switches?
Wired or wireless? Both are common and available in lots of different types, sizes, colors etc. As far as we know all of our adapted toys work with all the different switches available on the market.
We think it’s preferable if a toy can be controlled wirelessly – without a physical wired connection between the switch and the toy – especially if the toy, say a car, involves movement. Wire can be restricting and just gets in the way.
One of the toys we adapt is a tractor and trailer set. It comes with a radio transmitter built into a switch-box and a receiver in the tractor. Pressing the switch sends a signal to the tractor telling it to go. The toy starts-up and drives forward about 12 ft (as well as making sound and light effects). A wired switch connection would not work as well with this toy.
But, wired switches have a big advantage over wireless switches – they cost less and the connecting socket is generally easier to build into a toy. And, in reality, wired switches work very well with toys placed on, say, a table top. bubble machines are a great example of this.