Christmas Shopping for Children with Special Needs


Christmas shopping can bring great happiness to both the gift giver and the recipient. Everyone enjoys the feeling of finding and giving the perfect gift. Many of us will be shopping this holiday season for children with special needs. If you know a child with special needs, but are unsure how to select the perfect gift, consider these 3 guides:

  1. Toys“R”Us Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids This guide includes fun toys that can be easily found at Toys “R” Us and other popular retail outlets. Icons based on a variety of skill sets (e.g., Auditory, Language, Social, etc…) help shoppers locate toys that might be a good match for children with different strengths.
  2. Lekotek’s Able Play Toy Guide  Lekotek  is a national network serving children with special needs and their families. Lekotek’s mission is to make play accessible for all. They offer supported play sessions and manage toy lending libraries. Their toy guide is organized by the skill areas that children may be trying to develop at school or in therapy. The skill areas in the guide include: cognitive, sensory, communicative, physical, emotional, tech, social, and adaptive.
  3. Discovery Toy’s Autism Toy Guide  Discovery Toys has a product line often favored by therapists and educators due to their focus on promoting development. Discovery Toys offers a few different toy guides and one specific to selecting toys for children on the autism spectrum. The toys in the guide are organized based on the developmental goal that children may be working towards. Some examples include: developing independent play skills, sustaining attention to a task, and cooperative play. National Autism Resources  provides a list of toys that are more focused on enjoyment than on skill development.

Toys Stock Children’s World Shop Toy Store Sale

Play is a critical ingredient to children’s overall development. The American Occupational Therapy Association states that, “It is a child’s “job” or “occupation” to play to develop physical coordination, emotional maturity, social skills to interact with other children, and self-confidence to try new experiences and explore new environments.”

Occupational therapy practitioners are skilled at supporting the play of children with special needs and with use play as a modality to support the development of motor skills, cognitive skills, and social emotional skills and the acquisition of habits, routines, and role-related behaviors. If you don’t have time to review the guides above, consider taking this Toy Checklist ,developed by the American Occupational Therapy Association, with you when you are out holiday shopping.

About Dr. Susan Cahill

Dr. Susan Cahill is a former Associate Professor and Director of the MSOT Program at Lewis University. She is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and a member of the AOTA Commission on Practice. Visit to learn more.

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