New toy store makes life on the autism spectrum easier

ABA therapist Jamilah Rahim saw too many families with kids with special needs having to turn to online shopping for their development toys and games only to find about half the time that their kids didn’t like what arrived due to their unique sensory needs.

So she decided it was time Chicago had a store dedicated to letting kids try out the toys before their parents opened their wallets. Earlier this year, Spectrum, her new toy store in child-friendly Roscoe Village at 1911 W. Belmont, Chicago, began doing just that.

The response has been great, she says. The merchandise, which Rahim selects using her own knowledge about what works as well as using feedback from families, is all focused on helping children with special needs play while learning. Despite working five days a week doing in-home and in-school ABA Therapy, Rahim says she stays on top of toy trends and kids’ interests, meaning her merchandise is always changing.

Though it does offer sensory items and adaptive equipment families need in their homes as well as developmental toys, games and books, it’s a store that all families, including those with typically developing kids, will enjoy, she says.

“When children are playing, they are learning, sometimes we forget that as adults,” she says. “… Everything we have (at Spectrum) has to support the growth and development of that child.”

Among her top suggestions for families with special needs should consider adding to their toy box this season:

  • PlayDoh
  • Fidget toys
  • Theraputty
  • Sensory balls

This month Rahim will unveil her new toy subscription boxes. For .99 a month, families will receive a new toy, an activity guide that uses the toy to build academic and developmental skills and a surprise. Watch for holiday activities, including a potential visit from the North Pole.

Rahim also is taking applications for Spectrum’s winter break camp Dec. 26-Jan. 6 that will focus on play as well as skill development.

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