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Special Stuff: Part 3

The editors of NYMetro Special Parent have hand-picked these products for families of children with special needs. This roundup includes special "steppers" that help improve coordination and balance; shoes designed especially for kids with AFO braces; a play mat that helps little ones develop interaction, vocabulary, and language skills; an iPad case that protects your device while helping to enhance your child's focus; and a new, award-winning app for kids with autism.

Also see: Special Stuff: Part 1 and Special Stuff: Part 2

1. A Leg Up Steppers help kids with physical difficulties improve coordination and balance. The braided cord facilitates the combinative use of hands, arms, legs, and feet—helping your little one learn to control his entire body in one fun exercise, while flared bottoms and the anti-slip tops of base cups provide sure footing. Assistance for tikes with severe needs is easily given by standing behind the child. (For ages 5 and older; $11:45;

2. Stepping Out No longer do parents and kids with AFO braces have to struggle and shuffle to get feet into shoes. The patented “Easy-Fit” system of Hatchbacks Elite shoes provides a hinged sole, allowing the foot to slide in gently. The extra-wide design accommodates ankle-foot orthotics without looking bulky, while gently curved soles and lightweight materials aid in producing a natural walking gait. With a variety of options for both dress and casual occasions, they’re pretty stylish, too. ($63.95 all shoes; for sizes and ordering info)

3. U Can Do It! Invented by a Westchester mom of four and pediatrician, Dr. Jen’s U-Play Mat works hand-in-hand with the included Stages of Learning Photo Flash Cards to help children develop interaction, vocabulary, and language skills. The mat’s innovative shape allows children to sit inside, providing a perfect setting for eye contact and face-to-face activities. Clear card pockets are easily accessible and their placement naturally encourages youngsters to explore. An activity guide outlines specially designed activities to help you get the most out of your play. (For ages 1 and older; $49.99;

4. Childproof Tech With more and more apps being integrated into our kids’ therapies, it’s imperative we find a way to protect their devices (ahem, our devices...which we let them use). The Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case for iPad has a clear film screen protector and a sturdy rubber shell. Its flat base adds weight, providing slight pressure on the lap to enhance focus. The easel stand allows for angled viewing, and an alternative rocker is great for interactive play. Free Fisher-Price learning apps for developing fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination are also available from the iTunes store. (For ages 6 months to 3 years; $34.99;

5. Award-Winning App AutisMate is an award-winning app that allows users to communicate visually, helping them to connect with the world around them through scenes or photos that can be made interactive with voice recordings, videos, and picture schedules. This uncomplicated way of communicating reduces the user’s frustration and can result in improved behavior. The app was created by Jonathan Izak, a computer scientist from NYC, whose younger brother suffers from autism. To learn more, visit

6. To Infinity, and Beyond! Made from a comfortable resistive material, the Space Explorer Suit provides calming deep pressure and proprioceptive input for tactile defensive children, sensory seekers, and crashers, including children and tweens with autism. This fun suit helps children develop spatial and body awareness, muscle strength, motor planning and creativity. Head can be placed outside or inside the Space Explorer. It's made of four-way stretch, machine-washable Lycra with a Velcro closure. Choose from animal prints or solid colors. (For ages 3 and older; $32.99;  

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