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Special Stuff: Part 2

Our editors have selected these fun and useful products with the special needs community in mind. Whether you're looking for the perfect blanket for a child with sensory issues, a lightweight and easily transportable wheelchair, or a way to wear your advocacy on your sleeve, there's something for you in this roundup! Click on each photo for a full description of the product (or scroll down below the photo gallery), including how each product helps kids with special needs and where to buy.


1. Busy, Busy Builders

Way better than trying to tie a pair of shoes, the Sailing Ships Workshop helps youngsters hone fine motor skills while “building” boats. The heavy board book features five easy-to-follow ship-themed designs for kids to tinker with and includes a pull-out drawer with a sized-just-right screwdriver, fasteners, and foam rubber pieces with pre-drilled holes. (Recommended for ages 2-4, but older children with motor development issues will benefit; $10.95;


2. Be a Battle Buddy

Show a friend or family member living with mental illness that your love and support are unconditional—and fight the good fight in the process—by donning this Battle Buddy T-Shirt from Bring Change 2 Mind, an organization co-founded by actress Glenn Close (pictured above with her sister Jessie, who suffers from bipolar disorder) that works to eradicate the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. The shirt is 100 percent cotton and you can personalize it with your own message on the front (the Bring Change 2 Mind logo appears on the back). (Available in sizes small through XXL; $20;


3. A Good Egg

The PS LÖMSK swivel chair from Ikea, made especially for children, is not only fun (with the hood pulled down it’s a secret hiding place!), but it’s designed with vestibular and proprioceptive needs in mind. Spinning helps the brain sort sensory impressions, and it’s good for helping with balance. The top fabric lets in light so it is never completely dark. (available at Ikea stores;


4. Uphill Climb

Made with smooth hardwood rungs and sturdy nylon knotted rope, this 6-foot-long rope ladder from eSpecialNeeds is designed to easily wrap over tree limbs or beams, so your child can have fun climbing indoors or outdoors. Climbing the ladder helps children develop strength, improve posture and motor planning, and also with coordination. (ages 3-12; $21.95;


5. Soft Autism Awareness Tee

Soft Clothing, an inclusive and universally designed line of clothing geared towards all children but specifically those with sensitivity to the texture and feel of clothing, will launch its first limited edition Autism Awareness Tee during Autism Awareness Month. Designed in collaboration with a mom of a child with autism, this colorful and inspiring tee will be for sale on the Soft website beginning on World Autism Awareness Day (April 1), and 20 percent of profits will benefit Soft's network of small and large Autism organizations, including Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of America. “I just love the message on the tee,” says Jessica Ralli, Soft director. “If you know a parent of a child with autism, or a person with autism, you know they want three things: to be understood, supported, and ultimately loved and accepted for who they are." (Available in navy or white, check website for sizes; $25;


6. On-the-Go Comfort

By combining an extremely soft texture, a small amount of weight, and an irresistable monkey face, Sensory University has created a lovey destined to become your little sensory-seeking child’s best friend. The small amount of weight (1½ lbs.) offers the grounding sensation needed to keep her still, but the Sensory Square Pet is light enough to carry along. ($39.99;


7. Up, Up, and Away!

This toy may not be new, but if you haven’t heard of Stomp Rockets from any of your friends yet, we’re here to introduce you: This toy is a go-to for many physical therapists and special ed teachers because it’s great at engaging kids with special needs in social activity and exercise. Foot power alone propels rockets as high as 200 feet in the air! Stomp Rockets are safe; help improve low muscle tone; demonstrate principles of trajectory, force, distance, and motion; and encourage creative play. One parent tells us it helps helps work out her child’s aggressive energy, too. (Ages 8 and older; $16.50 for stomp rocket ultra, others available for different age ranges;


8. Mobile Support

A lightweight, foldable positioning chair, the Trotter Mobility Pushchair Strolleris an easily transportable alternative to the standard wheelchair, which may be heavy and bulky. The Trotter is designed for those with mild to moderate positioning needs and features a 30-degree fixed seat back, providing a comfortable position with upper torso

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support for children and adults who lack upper body strength or trunk stability due to developmental delays in motor skills or physical disabilities. Simple adjustments also allow the Trotter to be used as your child grows. (Available in four sizes; $960; 877-664-4565,


9. A Whole Lotta Love

Grammy-nominated rocker Brady Rymer’s 2011 award-winning album, Love Me for Who I Am, sends kids on the autism spectrum a message of self-confidence and empowerment through rock ‘n’ roll. Rymer was inspired to create this collection of original songs by students at the Celebrate the Children School in New Jersey, who are affected by autism and related conditions. Rymer was inspired by the stories he heard from the school community, the challenges faced by the students and their families, and the enthusiasm and boundless energy the children brought to their day-to-day lives. The result: 10 rockin’ songs that illuminate and celebrate the world of a child with autism. ($13 for audio CD; also available for MP3 and on iTunes; 5 percent of profits goes to Autism Speaks and an additional portion benefits the Celebrate the Children School;


Also See:

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