I went to Target with Tallula recently. We always browse the toys to see what’s new and get ideas for Christmas etc. Tallula always wants to find something for Sebastian and she is usually pulled to the Spiderman and the Ninja Turtles’ toys. Shopping for Sebastian is difficult. Every birthday and every Christmas we really have to think outside the box. I do a lot of looking through toy stores and online. I read other blogs and take notes of other kiddos gifts at these times to file away for when I need to. I looked through every Spiderman toy and not one was something he could manipulate himself. There was one that went on your hand and shot Nerf saucers and I thought, cool! But then after looking up a video on youtube (because there are no instructions on the outside of the box) I discovered you had to wrap your fingers around something and pull them down to activate the saucers. No go. I try not to get discouraged, but I always leave a little deflated. Thankfully on our way to the escalators I spotted a set of Spiderman headphones that someone had just set down. He’ll find those under the tree this year. And he will be excited. But can he play with the headphones? No. He’s six! He wants to play too.
I’ve read two special needs holiday gift guide blog posts [Love That Max and Have Wheelchair Will Travel] this year and I’ve seen the ToysRUs Gifts for the Differently Abled Guide and Melissa and Doug Special Needs catalogues. Even though they are great, they have few options for kids with significant physical disabilities. Sebastian cannot manipulate toys on his own. He needs hand over hand. He’s come a long way using switches for communication as well as computer games (I really need to write about that). I want him to have fun and have some independence too. And I know there are other kids out there with very limited physical abilities that do too. So I decided to do my own list this year.
Robo-pets! Last Christmas we put Zoomer under the tree and it was AWESOME. We put commands into Sebastian’s Proloquo2Go app (his communication book) so that he could tell Zoomer what to do. His favourite is ‘Zoomer, Go pee.’ Zoomer is supposed to recognize the same person’s commands but sometimes it’s difficult with a somewhat computerized voice telling him what to do so we have to help out, though Sebastian can essentially still give the command. It’s the next best thing to actually having a dog. He does a lot of fun stuff. My favourite is when he barks ‘Oh my darlin’. Zoomer also has some new friends you can choose from too.
Sebastian also has a Robo-Shark we call ‘Sharkie’. He swims for about 5 mins in his fish bowl and then he goes to sleep. He’s not as interactive as Zoomer but the kids like to watch him for a bit and then return to him later. We can also make up stories about his adventures.
Computer Games: switch accessible. Sebastian has a subscription to HelpKidzLearn A UK based site that has songs stories, games, and other activities. Each one has settings which can be set up with using a switch/switches. They also sell switches on their site, which was what we used until Sebastian got his custom ones. Many of the games are two player games so Sebastian can play with his sister, dad or myself. His favourites are basketball and bumper cars. There’s also a soccer song he really likes. Not only are these fun, but they teach switch skills as well as allow Sebastian to play with others. A year subscription to their website activities costs $90CAD and it is definitely worth it. Over 80 games and activities, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. When Sebastian talks about his favourite things to do, ‘video games’ is high on the list. These are his video games. They also have iPad apps for some of the same games/activities for 2 AND a select ten on the website to try for free. On of his favourites is Hoop Stars.
Switch toys: Sebastian has played with some very basic cause and effect switch toys in the past when his was first learning how to use switches and also to assess his ability with targeting, etc. Switch toys can be very expensive. Since Sebastian uses his switches throughout the day to communicate, even read and write, I knew he was ready for something bigger. He really likes to play with the train track at home and he loves his car race tracks. We have a couple that he needs little help to manipulate but the train track he can really only tell us what he wants us to do with the trains using his ipad/communication book. It became my mission to find a train or race track that was switch accessible. My search took my to a site in the UK, Excitim LTD Special Needs Toys. I found some photos and an old blog post re the trains so I sent a message on FB and immediately heard back. We corresponded via email and I was given a few links and descriptions for exactly what I was looking for. After looking on the site I decided on two Rally Racer and Tolo Train Can you guess which one Sebastian is getting for Christmas? I’ll be doing a follow up post after the holidays…
Monkey Bingo: Sebastian got this game a couple years ago for Christmas and it’s still a hit. He can push the monkey himself, so he can take turns like everyone else. We usually take this game with us whenever we go to Michigan because his cousins love to play it with him. I use blue sticky tack to attach the plastic coins to mark when he gets a match so that I can hold up the card and show him the pictures as we go. (This also works for memory games: sticky tack onto a piece of cardboard).
Aqua Dragons Sebastian got a prehistoric egg kit for his birthday and he loved looking every day to see if they had hatched and when they had, how they grew. We had to squeeze air bubbles into their small plastic aquarium for oxygen daily and feed them once a week. We reported progress on his home-school switch share and he loved learning and sharing about these little tiny beings. Unfortunately after returning home from a week holiday they had perished but the few months we had to see them grow were fun.
Bubble Science/science kits are also a great gift. Even though Sebastian can’t do the experiments on his own, he loves to do them with us, or watch us do them and discover and explore something new while learning and having fun. We also got Sebastian Sands Alive! Dino Adventure for his 6th birthday and he was gifted Kinetic Sand. It’s like having a sandbox indoors/on your tray. Less mess and a great sensory activity. With the Sands Alive Dino kit Sebastian can help roll a roller with dino-feet to make dino track marks as well as push down dinosaur skeletons to make fossil prints. Tallula likes to burry his hands and he lifts them up. The kid comes with 3D glasses and is a lot of fun, but it’s still something that he needs some assistance with.
Therapy Swings A couple summers ago we got Sebastian a kids hammock swing for our back deck as well as a platform swing for therapy (which couples as a large hammock). The small swing can also be hung inside and it’s a great way to relax as well as great for sensory/motor. ‘The soft swinging promotes your child’s sense of balance as well as the general development.’ And it’s fun!
Music and Movies: Sebastian loves a good dance party. He’s going to be getting the new Beck album for Christmas and he’s going to love it. Sebastian also loves to play music and takes music therapy which give him the opportunity to play different instruments, including the VMI (virtual music instrument) so he can play drums independently. Music therapy/lessons are another gift the continues long after the holidays have passed. I also always purchase a new movie to watch on the iPad during our long drive to Michigan for the holidays. Last year it was the Lorax. This year it will be Ernest and Celestine. Both are films that we watched together first so we know them and know how much they are enjoyed.
Experience tickets: Experiences make memories that last a lifetime. Getting tickets to a Christmas show/pantomime or Sesame Street: Let’s Dance! are a wonderful way to celebrate as a family or even with friends. Going to see a special exhibit at a museum or science centre are fun ways to explore and make memories together too. Or even a trip to the movies! We are hoping to see Paddington at the cinema with Grandma when we are in Michigan.
Books! We love books. We also have a lot of books. But I really believe that books are gifts that keep on giving. Getting someone your favourite book or a book by your favourite author is a great way to share something with someone, especially if you know they have all or most of their own favourite author, as is Sebastian’s case with Mo Willems.
I hope you find something that works for you. I’d love more ideas in the comments. And please share. Because there are other kids out there like Sebastian, just a kid, wanting to have fun like all kids do.
This post has not been sponsored by any of the aforementioned companies. Just me, a parent, sharing our experiences with you!