Adapted Toys for
Good Girls & Boys
by Kathy Wechsler
This year’s holiday gift guide focuses on
toys for children preschool through elementary school age
who have disabilities.
Some of these toys compensate for poor
coordination and fine motor control. Others are wheelchair
accessible, and still others help children learn that it’s
OK to be different.
Fun for any age, the Fun Gripper
Flyer ($10) is a 9-inch soft flying disc with a
durable nonslip texture that’s easy to handle. The
Fling Sock ($10) is a Fun Gripper bean bag attached
to a long nylon fabric tail with a handle for easy catching
and throwing. Shoot and score with the Fun Gripper
B-Ball Target Game ($40) and the ball automatically
returns to you. The game comes with three 5-inch Fun Gripper
Balls and a carrying case. The giant 36-Inch Fun
Gripper Soccer Ball ($100) is great for power
soccer and other games. Saturnian 1, (800) 653-2719,
Little train lovers will enjoy the
Whistlestop Train Set ($119), which comes with an
easy-to-use controller with large buttons to move four cars
around a circular track. TFH Products, (800) 467-6222,
The Incrediblocks Set ($195) includes 50
large, lightweight interlocking soft blocks that are easy to
handle. They’re ideal for children with limited fine-motor
control and strength who want to make something big.
FlagHouse, (800) 793-7900,
Lakeshore Block Play People with Differing
Abilities ($20) is a set of six vinyl figures with
different disabilities. They complement the 12-figure
Lakeshore Community Block Play People ($30).
Lakeshore Learning Materials, (800) 778-4456,
Just like kids, some dolls need physical therapy.
Parallel Bars ($55), Trampoline
($34) and Gym Mat & Swiss Therapy Balls with Air
Pump ($15) all are available in doll sizes, as are
a Wheelchair ($59), Walker
($28) and Arm Braces ($24). These are for
children 8 years and up. Sew Dolling,
Also for dolls and stuffed animals, the Just Like
You Wheelchair ($30) is a realistic-looking manual
chair, complete with a removable seat and back, swiveling
front wheels, working brakes and a storage pocket on the
side. The chair fits most 18-inch dolls. American Girl,
Pretend play becomes wheelchair accessible with the
Patio Playhouse ($350), which features a
wall that swings open, easing access for wheelchair users.
Little Tikes, (800) 321-0183,
Everyone loves pinball! The tabletop Spider Man
or Scooby Doo Pinball Machine
($105) is specially designed with extra-large paddles and
can be adapted for skill and speed. It includes real
arcade-style lights and sounds and roll digit scoring.
Enabling Devices, (800) 832-8697,
The tabletop Shoot & Score Basketball Game
($70) allows players to shoot a miniature basketball at a
hoop by hitting a plate. The game features an electronic
commentator who announces the high score and gives
encouragement. Enabling Devices, (800) 832-8697,
The Morphibian Gator ($76) is a small,
rugged remote-controlled vehicle that traverses the toughest
terrain, controlled by an accessible Palm Joystick Switch
(included). Enabling Devices, (800) 832-8697,
Kids have a new mechanical best friend — Robopet
($79). This black, white and gray futuristic replica of a
real dog has lifelike animations and digital animal sounds.
Robopet can roam freely in autonomous mode, or be directed
using a remote control. Train him to perform up to 20 moves
and tricks, or switch him into guard or sleep mode. He’s
suitable for ages 8 and up. WowWee Robotics, (800) 310-3033,
also available at many department and toy stores.
Kids with limited hand function who want to beat friends
at cards may like the Playing Card Holder
($35). It holds up to 18 cards in two clear plastic tiers.
Maddak, (973) 628-7600,
A favorite game becomes more accessible with the
Jumbo Checkers and Floor Mat Board ($16). These
checker pieces are easy to pick up for effortless fun for
the entire family. Easy-to-See Puzzles
($16) have larger puzzle pieces than traditional puzzles and
come in three 300-piece designs. Dynamic Living, (888)
The Bowling Ball Pusher ($189) allows
bowling from a sitting or standing position. Hold the
adjustable extension handle and rest the four-pronged steel
and aluminum guide on the alley floor while pushing the
ball. Maddak, (973) 628-7600,
The SmartNav head tracker ($200-$400)
provides hands-free computer access for word processing,
games and any other computer activity that uses a mouse.
Minimal head movement controls the cursor of either a Mac or
PC. NaturalPoint, (888) 865-5535,
The PlayStation Control Center ($150)
plugs into a PlayStation port to make video gaming more
accessible. Push on one of four positions on each of the two
yellow disks or use your own capability switch. Enabling
Devices, (800) 832-8697,
The Gift of
Looking for a good holiday gift for your
child’s teacher or school? This year, give your favorite
educator a way to create disability awareness in the
classroom through the joy of reading. (You may have someone
else on your shopping list who would enjoy these books as
well!) Most can be purchased from online or local
Rolling Along With Goldilocks and the Three
Bears, by Cindy Meyers, 28 pages, $14.95,
Woodbine House, 1999.
This disability-friendly version of the classic tale
includes many of the same elements as the original, except
Baby Bear uses a wheelchair and other equipment, and goes to
physical therapy. It ends on a positive note with Baby Bear
becoming friends with Goldilocks. Ages 3-7.
All Kinds of Friends, Even Green!
by Ellen B. Senisi, 28 pages, $14.95, Woodbine House, 2002.
Moses, who has spina bifida, has to write about a friend
for a school assignment. Moses realizes he has much in
common with his neighbor’s iguana, Zaki, who has missing
toes, and decides to write about their friendship. This tale
of inclusion is illustrated with colorful photographs.
My Grampy Can’t Walk, by Vanita
Oelschlager, 40 pages, $17.95, Cleveland Clinic Press, 2006.
This story is based on the author’s husband, who has
multiple sclerosis, and his relationship with his
grandchildren. The book, which has beautiful color
illustrations, teaches children about disabilities and that
using a wheelchair doesn’t mean life can’t be fun. Grades
A Charm for Jo, by Bill and
Laurie Brady, 32 pages, $15.95, Jason and Nordic Publishers
(Turtle Books), 2006.
On the first day of school, Jo (who has muscular
dystrophy and uses a wheelchair) is nervous about fitting in
with her new classmates. With the help of her mother, some
innovative teachers and friendly students, she quickly
learns that she’s very similar to her new friends. Grades
Caleb’s Birthday Wish, by David
Villanueva Jr., 40 pages, $14.95, A Better Be Write
Caleb, who uses a wheelchair, learns the importance of
following his dreams. This book says children with
disabilities shouldn’t let obstacles keep them from
achieving their goals. Grades K-4.
Kids on Wheels! magazine, No
Limits Communications, $15 per year, (888) 850-0343,
This quarterly periodical is divided into two editions:
one just for kids who use wheelchairs and the other for
parents. Both sections allow readers to meet other kids or
parents in similar situations, share stories, ask questions,
and give and receive advice about everyday challenges. A
two-volume book, Kids on Wheels
($20), also is available. Grades 4-6.
Jamie: A Literacy Story, by
Diane Parker, 116 pages, $15, Stenhouse Publisher, 1997.
Written by a primary school teacher in Hawaii, this book
tells the true story of a girl with spinal muscular atrophy,
and the ways in which her love of reading enriched her life
and others’. Jamie’s story touches on a host of critical
educational issues — parent involvement, inclusion,
assessment, curriculum reform, equity and justice for all
learners. This joyous book was written for adults,
especially elementary teachers.
Heartsongs, five poetry books
by Mattie J.T. Stepanek, Hyperion Books.
The late MDA National Goodwill Ambassador and peacemaker
Mattie Stepanek published five books of poetry between 2002
and 2004. These simple poems, dating back to his preschool
years, are at once childlike, witty and wise, investigating
subjects like rainbows, play, siblings, friends, faith, loss
and grief. Grade 2 through adult.
Reflections of a Peacemaker: A Portrait
Through Heartsongs, 240 pages, $16.95, Andrews
This book presents Mattie’s previously unpublished
poetry, photographs and artwork. Each section of
theme-grouped poems is introduced by one of his celebrity
admirers, including Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Larry King
and Jimmy Carter. Grade 4 through adult.
Just Peace: A Message of Hope,
by Mattie Stepanek with Jimmy Carter. 224 pages, $16.95,
Andrews McMeel, 2006.
Published posthumously, this book is a collection of
Mattie’s writings on peace and his correspondence with
Carter on the subject. A portion of the proceeds is donated
to the MDA Mattie Fund, for research on childhood
neuromuscular diseases. Grade 6 through adult.