Assistive Technology Corner…How to Choose Meaningful Holiday Gifts for your Child with Special Needs

Two girls and a mom

As we approach the holidays, well-meaning family and friends will likely ask for gift suggestions for your child with special needs. This can be a tough question, but if you don’t make a specific request, your child may receive an inappropriate gift. Every year, our family approaches gift giving for our son by asking two essential questions: What are his current interests? How can his interests be met in a meaningful, accessible and age appropriate way?

Several excellent, online resources provide reviews of play products. Experts at the National Lekotek Center evaluate toys and rate them for appropriateness for children with physical, sensory, communicative and/or cognitive disabilities. These ratings are available on the Able Play Web site, where there is a description of the toy as well as a list of the skills the item promotes, benefits and play ideas. Parents can purchase toys directly from the manufacturer or add them to a handy Wish List to make it easy for others to purchase the products you recommend for your child.

Another great resource from the National Lekotek Center is the Toys R Us’ Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. This free, family-friendly guide features specially selected toys that promote the development of children with physical and cognitive disabilities in the areas of auditory processing, language, visual, fine motor, thinking and social skills. Each toy has one or more symbols that indicate the specific skill so parents can easily identify items best suited for their child’s needs. This year’s guide is available online, and of course, all the toys can be purchased at Toys R Us saving the extra shipping costs.

Should your child need specially modified toys, Enabling Devices and Dragonfly Toys are great sources for switch-adapted and universal access toys and games. Happy shopping!

Additional Resources

Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys:

Read Gift Ideas for Students with Severe Disabilities: or listen to the podcast at


Adaptive Toys Guide:

Dragonfly Toys:

Enabling Devices:

Infinitec’s Section on Play:

Toys R Us Differently-Abled Toy Guide:


Sargent, Randi, “Assistive Technology Corner…How to Choose Meaningful Holiday Gifts for your Child with Special Needs.” Federation for Children with Special Needs, NEWSLINE, no date, Accessed 12, Dec. 2016