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Finding the Right Toy for Your Child with a Development Disability

Children with developmental disabilities are unique in many ways, including the way they play and the way they view the world.

During the holidays, it is common for family and friends to ask what type of toys your child likes, so they can give them something they will truly appreciate. What people may not know is that children with developmental disabilities have a specific set of needs that will influence the type of toys that they should play with.

Unlike children that do not have a developmental disability, there are extra risks and hazards around toys in the market. On top of choking hazards and poisoned materials, children with developmental disabilities run the risk of being overstimulated or triggered by certain toys. Finding the right type of toy for your loved one with a developmental disability can be challenging but rewarding in the end when they have a toy that they truly enjoy playing with.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your loved one’s toys and whether they are appropriate for their diagnosis, be sure to ask their doctor.

Cause & Effect Toys and Puzzles

Cause and effect toys can be a great way to promote hand-eye coordination, repetitive movements and activities, playful interaction between child and parent and sensory exploration, especially for children with autism. Cause and effects toys will show teach the child about the cognitive concept of cause and effect. A pressed button may trigger the tune to a song, therefore showing the child that if they press the button, the song will be played. They will learn about repetitive actions by pressing the button multiple times to hear about the song. There are several types of cause and effect toys, such as pop-up toys, light-up toys, water squirter toys, and shape toys!

Puzzles can provide developmental benefits to children with disabilities. When a child plays with a puzzle, he or she will learn how to pick up the puzzle pieces, attempt to put them together to make them fit and learn how to find connecting pieces. This will help children with motor delays a way to improve their skills while having fun!


Fidget Toys

Children that have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, autism or sensory processing challenges have a hard time not fidgeting in their daily life. Their brain is engaged and triggers their hands, feet and fingers to be busy as well. Fidget toys can provide an outlet for these children to keep their hands busy. There are quite a few fidget toys that can be purchased to help these children! They include stress balls or other squeezable items, play dough or any other slime sort of substance, specialized cushions that are designed to help children keep their balance and concentration and the most recently popular fidget spinners.


Oral Motor Stimulators

Children with disabilities and special needs may experience anxiety or overstimulation that causes them to try to soothe themselves by chewing on anything that they can get their hands on. This presents a risk that they may chew on something that they can choke on or swallow. Oral motor stimulator toys can provide a safe way for children with disabilities to have that oral fixation and soothe their anxiety or overstimulation. Oral motor stimulator toys can come in different shapes and sizes, but all serve the same purpose. There are bracelets that are chewable, necklaces that have chewable pieces on them, pencil toppers that are chewable and even toy cars that are made out of chewable materials.

Sensory Toys

Sensory toys are designed specifically for children with disabilities, have sensory processing disorders or children with autism. These toys are made to stimulate one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, tough, taste and smell. Some children with disabilities may enjoying feeling certain textures, smelling certain aromas, or hearing a certain sound. There are several different types of sensory toys that can help stimulate a child’s brain and give them the sort of sensory response that he or she desires. These include soothing rain tubes, massage rollers, light up toys and sound puzzles.


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Resources for a Family of an Individual with Autism

We know that when a member of your family is diagnoses with Autism, you may feel overwhelmed, alone and afraid of the challenges that are ahead of you. These feelings are completely normal and valid, it is a time of uncertainty and change! However, you do not have to feel completely alone; there are resources for you and your family!

Autism speaks has curated a list of resources for your family that will allow you to live a healthy and happy life. The resources that they provide to families range from the person who is on the Autism spectrum to the family members that are affected by their Autism. There are also resources that are specific to the type of Autism that your family member may have. Remember that each type of Autism is different, and their daily lives will be different from the others on the spectrum, so the resources will be different as well.

We also encourage you to look into your community or within support groups to find families that have similar experiences as you. This will allow you to communicate with others that may be feeling the same way as you, giving you an outlet to channel your emotions. Support groups may vary based on the specific diagnoses or a general support group for families with loved ones that have a disability or are special needs.

These resources are meant to help you and your family learn how to cope during a time of uncertainty, fear and challenges. We know that this time in your life in chaotic and hectic, but these resources and support groups will allow you to relate to people that are in your same situation. We hope that you find the proper resources that are right for you and your family.

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How to Be a Friend to Someone with Autism

We know that it can be challenging to find ways to relate to and befriend an individual that is on the Autism spectrum, as you may see the world differently and feel as though you cannot make them happy as a friend. That is not always the case, in fact individuals with Autism may want to be friends with you, but have a harder time showing their affection, passion and enthusiasm about relationships. We think it is important to know how you can befriend a person that is on the Autism spectrum, because they may become one of the most important people in the world to you, but you may never have the chance to get to know them due to differences intellectually. Look at our tips below to develop a magical friendship that may last a lifetime!

  • Do not assume that he or she does not want to be your friend, just because they do not vocalize it. Many people on the Autism spectrum have trouble communicating their thoughts and feelings to people, so we encourage you to not assume that if he or she does not show or express obvious interest in being your friend, they truly are not interested. Try asking them to eat lunch with you, take a walk or to just hang out and talk to each other. By you initiating the plans, this will allow the other person to express their interest in whether they want to befriend you or not, without them initiating the contact.
  • Communication should be clear, concise and direct. Individuals with Autism normally respond well to short, to the point sentences that uses direct language. You should also be sure to speak at a reasonable volume and be sure to speak slowly, but not too slowly! You don’t want to offend them, after all! Give the individual time to respond to your sentences, allowing a conversation to flow freely.
  • Make sure that you are respectful of them and view them as a person, not as a project. We know that your intentions may be pure, and you may want to make a new friend, but to an individual with Autism, they may feel differently about your intentions. Try not to look completely past their disability or try to change them, as it is an imperative part of their identity and their personality, but rather embrace it and appreciate them for who they are.

We hope that these tips will help you befriend an individual that is on the Autism spectrum and to create a bond that will last a lifetime. Remember that your friend may not have a positive social interaction with everyone, so be sure to stick up for them if you see them in a dilemma where they need assistance. We hope that you establish relationships that you will cherish deeply.

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The Different Types of Autism and How to Recognize Each

When people hear the word ‘autism’ they often have an idea of an individual in their head. Although those preconceived notions may be true for some people with Autism, not all people fall under that ‘classic Autistic’ category. Did you know that there are three different types of Autism Spectrum Disorders (also known as ASD)?  Read below to learn more about each type of Autism and how you can identify it.

  • Autistic Disorder, also known as the ‘classic case of Autism.’ This is the typical case that people think of when they think of an individual with Autism. These individuals may have issues with verbal and non-verbal communication, which can cause them to either have a delay in speech, lack of facial expressions or trouble maintaining eye contact while speaking. Additionally, they may experience hypo-sensitivity to sight, sound, smell touch or taste. An individual with classic Autism may find it difficult to go through the motions of their everyday life without repetition or routine and may have a negative reaction when either of these are taken away from them. They may also have a hard time relating to society and other people, as they may not be able to empathize with other people’s emotions since they do not experience the same emotions themselves.
  • Asperger Syndrome is a form of Autism that presents challenges socially and in the individuals behavior or interests. They may have milder symptoms than those with classic Autistic Disorder, but have their own trials and tribulations in their daily life. Someone that has Asperger Syndrome may act inappropriately in social situations, coming across as awkward or rude. They may feel more comfortable speaking about themselves, rather than focusing on someone they are socializing with, which makes them appear to be unempathetic and selfish. An individual with Asperger Syndrome may also have trouble expressing themselves nonverbally, which can cause them to not know how to have appropriate facial expressions, gestures or body language.
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is best described as individuals that do not fit into either the Autistic Disorder or the Asperger Syndrome categories. This person may have some mild symptoms from both types of Autism, but present other high functioning characteristics as well. These individuals can be in one of three categories: high-functioning, symptoms close to Autistic Disorder but not quite fully meeting its symptoms and the third group which is that the individual does meet all of the requirements to be in the Autistic Disorder group, but have very mild behavior symptoms. This specific category is relatively new, as it has been categorized as a part of the Autism spectrum only in the past 15 years.

We hope that this information about the different types of Autism will help you differentiate between the three different categories of Autism. We want to encourage you to embrace all people, whether they have a disability or not, and show them all the same respect. We feel that everyone is just as important and special as the next!

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Resources for Children with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families

When your child is first diagnosed with a developmental disability, the family can feel overwhelmed, scared and lonely. It is not uncommon for a family to feel as though they are the only ones who feel this way and that they are the only family going through this. It is important to note that there are millions of people that are going through the same process and emotions as you, making your feelings valid and legitimate.

It is important to know that you have resources that are available to you and your family to allow you and your child with developmental disabilities to be successful. This transition to a new way of life may seem chaotic and messy, but with the right tools you can have a very happy and healthy life as a family. The CDC has a list of resources that are available to you that can be found here. Please note that there are multiple resources available and depending on your case you may be able to use more than one.

Additionally, Friendship Circle has a list of ten special needs organizations that offer programs and services to the community of special needs individuals and their families. These organizations can provide a network for you and your family to connect with people that have a similar experience as yours. These programs also can allow your child to participate in fun activities such as the Special Olympics or summer camps through Friendship Circle International. It also has a list of programs and organizations that can help you as a parent, guardian or family member of an individual with developmental disabilities.

24 Hour Home Care offers care to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Do you need time to run errands or to get work done? Are you feeling overwhelmed and need a break to rest and recharge? Allow our caregivers to give you the break that you deserve. We are a resource to you and we are here to help you in any way that we can.

We know that this time can be challenging, overwhelming and may seem like you have no one to talk to or relate to. Please know that you are not alone in this process and that there are resources out there meant to help you, give you tools to succeed and to allow your child to flourish.

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Tips to Help Your Child with Disabilities Have a Fun and Safe Halloween

Halloween is traditionally a day where kids can dress up and have fun with their friends collecting candy and trick-or-treating! However, there may be several challenges that come with Halloween for children with disabilities. Here are a few tips to make sure are on your check list so your child enjoys the occasion while staying happy and safe.

1. Make sure their costumes not only make them happy, but accommodate their needs as well. If your child has a wheelchair, cane or crutches you can simply look up costumes that are wheelchair, cane or crutches friendly. Make sure that they can move freely and that there is no fabric or prop limiting their mobility. If your child has sensory challenges and they may not enjoy the way the fabric of traditional costumes feels, consider using their everyday clothes to make a costume. He or she could be a lumberjack, a pumpkin, a sports fan, cowboy or cowgirl or a farmer! These costumes can be made from the clothes he or she feels comfortable with and wear often and will eliminate any sensory concerns.

2. If your child has a dietary restriction, make sure you are proactive by making yummy treats! Halloween is exciting for children because they get to dress up and they can earn candy by trick-or-treating. If your child with dietary restrictions is planning on going trick-or-treating with his or her friends, consider making your own treats that will accommodate their needs. If you are comfortable with your neighbors or the neighborhood you will be trick-or-treating in, you can give each house one of the treats that they will only give to your child. You could also give them their own ‘special treat’ at each house and inform the homeowner that a piece of candy is not necessary. It is important that your child feels included in the activities and this festive holiday, so you can start by looking up any yummy recipes that will accommodate your child’s needs.

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3. Make sure safety is a priority. We know that you are dedicated to making sure that your child is safe every day, but Halloween can bring a new set of challenges when it comes to safety. Make sure your child is wearing some form of reflective clothing so that if he or she can be seen when it is dark. In addition to the reflective piece of clothing, making sure that they are always by your side or in your sight will eliminate losing them in the crowds that may congregate in the streets or by houses.

4. Know when they have had enough and when it is time to go home. Keep an eye out for the signs that you know signal he or she is unhappy or ready to go home. Halloween can be very overwhelming and overstimulating, so there is no shame in retiring early and finding something fun to do at home, such as playing a family-friendly game or counting the pieces of ‘treats’ they earned!

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Halloween is a fun holiday that gives children memories that will last them a lifetime. Regardless of whether your child has or doesn’t have a disability, they all deserve to have a fun and safe holiday. We hope you find these tips to be helpful and you have a happy and safe Halloween!

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