Source: The National Lekotek Center, a division of Anixter
With so many toys to choose from, picking the right ones for a
child with disabilities can be difficult. That's where AblePlay,
created by the National Lekotek Center, comes in. Its independent
toy reviews and ratings help parents find the best toys to match
their child's abilities and interests. Search for AblePlay-rated
toys at ableplay.org.
Obstacles and delays in speech are not uncommon among children
with special needs. Toys and play offer parents fertile ground to
help children develop and grow these important skills.
Parents usually do a lot of the talking, so let's try some role
reversal. Have your child choose a "buddy" or "playmate" among his
or her stuffed animals. You could even introduce a new stuffed
animal to add excitement. Buddy Dog by PlayAbility Toys is a great
little critter that offers simple, stimulating play possibilities.
Tell them they are in charge of communicating and involving their
friend in the entire day's events. Make sure you ask your child to
tell you how their special friend is doing or liking the
Speech and singing experts know that warming up the voice helps
stretch the muscles in the face and assists in proper articulation.
So start doing some repetitive chants. Try using all the vowels by
creating sounds like "me, me, me," "la, la, la," "no, no, no," "u,
u, u." Beat a drum (or empty container), then get silly and add
gestures or movements to the rhythms. Take it up a notch by singing
songs like, "If you're happy and you know it" and change the
lyrics. Challenge older children to create their own lyrics or
write a rap or song themselves.
Most kids can be motivated by food, so offer your child some
menu choices this special day. Make a game of having them request
their choices in a complete sentence and give them some examples so
they know what you're asking for. Don't forget please and thank
Food can continue to inspire conversation by "cooking" something
for your child's buddy or pretend playmates. Get the pots and pans
out, food dye, Play-Doh and get your child talking about what they
want to cook, mix or prepare for their special friend. Create a
space by placing a blanket or cloth on the table or floor.
Remember, get your child to talk, ask and verbalize while
One play item I feel is a good investment is a play kitchen. It
not only mimics the real center of conversations in most homes, but
also can add social opportunities to engage other children. Little
Tikes makes a Deluxe Wood Kitchen and Laundry Center that
even includes a pretend phone to further encourage
As a special treat you can go out to dinner or just pretend.
Have your child ask what's being served, request their food and
thank the "waitress," real or parental. Gather 'Round Restaurant
Game is a great way to stimulate communication and give children
practice in talking to unfamiliar people (supervised, of
Try role reversal again by having your child read or tell a
bedtime story to his "buddy." You can also end the day by asking
your child or his imaginary friend to answer questions such as,
"What did you like most about the day?" Hopefully there will be a
lot to talk about.
Deidre Pate Omahen is a mom, a Chicago Special Parent Advisory
Board member and director of programs at the National Lekotek
Center in Chicago.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.