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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Guide to Toys 2008

Let's Play

A Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs


Introduction

Over 6.2 million children live with disabilities, accounting for 13.2 percent of the child population. Millions of parents, grandparents, other family members and caregivers of children with special needs struggle to find the best play and educational products for them.

Every day, parents ask professionals for advice on buying toys for their children. Often, shoppers are wary of buying toys for special needs children. However, selecting a toy for any child begins with two steps: first, learning what the child is interested in, and second, assessing his or her skill level. Let's Play: A Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs is a helpful educational tool designed to assist with this selection process. After reviewing this guide and doing your homework, we encourage you to visit toy shelves (both online and at your local retailer) and sample the great products designed to excite, engage and enthrall your child. Experience with them the joy and happiness of play!

With support from the Toy Industry Association, Inc.™ and its members, the Toy Industry Foundation™, in partnership with Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) and American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), has researched and tested hundreds of toys in an effort to offer you a comprehensive guide to the best toys for children of all ages with all types of special needs and interests. Toys included in this guide were tested by over 100 "toy experts"—children with a variety of special needs. ATA and AFB selected the featured products based on the toy's play value for children with special needs. Whether shopping for a three-year-old, visually impaired child or a ten-year-old with developmental disabilities, Let's Play is an excellent resource for finding the perfect toy.

Abbreviations Used in the Guide to Toys

For each toy included in the guide, you will find a description of the item, along with an explanation of skills that the toy will encourage and build during playtime. Please keep in mind that age ranges indicated for each toy are assigned by the manufacturer based on a child with no special needs. From time to time, you may see a quote included in a toy description that comes directly from a parent, caregiver or teacher who was involved in the testing to give you a more "hands-on" feeling about the toy and the enjoyment it provided to the child. Each toy will also contain one of the following labels to indicate who may find the toy most enjoyable: PI, HI, B, LV and DD.

These are defined as:

PI = Physical Impairment
Children with physical impairments (children with less than optimal use of their hands or children with some motor control challenges) were able to play with this toy. Physical impairments include cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. Features to look for when selecting toys for children with a physical impairment include large parts that make a toy easy to grasp, and a sturdy base to secure a toy in its place.

HI = Hearing Impairment
While many toys are appropriate for children with hearing impairments, these toys included one or more of the following: lights or visual feedback, volume control, interesting texture or surface or some other unique feature that made it appropriate for a child with a hearing impairment.

B = Blind or LV = Low Vision
Although children with visual impairments may enjoy many toys in this Guide, these toys are rated particularly high because of their sounds and interesting textures or surfaces that provide sensory stimulation. Also, children with moderate visual impairments can enjoy toys that include bright lights.

DD = Developmental Disabilities
Children with developmental disabilities including Down syndrome and autism enjoyed playing with this toy. When selecting toys for children with these disabilities, look for products that encourage them to act out real life situations such as playing school, or interacting with action figures and dolls.

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