Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Toys for Everyone

Ahh yes, it's toy time. Finding just the right thing for any child can be tough, but for special needs kiddos it can be a big challenge. What do you do when you child can't tell you want they want? It's a guessing game. It's also tough when many of the toys out there aren't made for children with developmental and physical disabilities. My trusty online friends have given me wonderful ideas.

There are these options to check out online:

Beyond Play specializes in early intervention

Toys R Us has a catalog for "differently" abled children:


Exceptional Parent Magazine makes their recommendations:


The first two options will show many toys used by all kids, but organized by skill such as "cause and effect" and "fine motor". They're helpful tools and I'm glad these companies are trying to include our kids.

But, I've learned you don't necessarily need to buy a special toy, you can adapt your own. Now, I'm not a handy person and I'm not really comfortable with tools, but I learned it's not that hard. Once again, St. Paul schools taught me something really valuable. Rondo Early Childhood Special Ed held a great seminar on adapting toys.

The "wizard" of adaptation ( occuaptional therapist) and a volunteer assistant showed us step-by-step how to turn make any electronic toy work with a switch plate. We learned how to solder wires together to add a plug-in adaptor. The switchplate then plugs in and can activate the toy. It's really quite simple and inexpensive

All you need is a soldering iron, speaker wire, and plugs you can buy at Radio Shack. By the end of the evening, we had adapted talking and moving puppies and cookie monsters and radio controlled cars. It was such a treat and very empowering. We even got to take home the toys and the soldering irons. The switchplates are pricey to buy but the school had several to loan us. They're also available at http://albenetinc.com

For kids who don't have some of the fine motor skills to work conventional toys, this is a great option. It's not just little toys, check out this adapted Thomas the Train.

With this kind of expert help, even us parents are discovering we can accomplish new things. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

'Tis the season we dread

I'm talkin' viral season. Yes, it's finally freezing here in Minnesota and that means everyone is staying inside and passing along every variety of virus. I think one of the scariest places for me this time of year is the elevator....any elevator with a sneezing, wheezing, hacking person within close range of my medically fragile kid.

When Mieko is well, it's so easy to forget she is extremely vulnerable this time of year. But, we had a reality check once again last Friday. A little fussiness and sneezing turned into a full-blown respiratory crisis. She had her first hospital stay for the season. The good news: it was a very brief stay at Children's St. Paul, we caught it early. The bad news: it's only the beginning.

So what's a special needs parent to do? How do you keep your child protected but still have a quality of life? Mieko had her flu shot and she gets monthly injections of synagis (to prevent RSV). The docs tell us we should limit her contact with large groups of people from November through March. That's a heck of a long time to stay home. We try to do our best with handwashing and making sure sick folks don't come over. But what else? Some trisomy parents I know use different nutritional supplements to help boost immunity. Mieko is compeltely tube fed with pediasure with fiber. We give her some V8 juice daily for some natural vitamins, but I haven't figured out what else may actually make a difference.

We still go out, especially if its a family gathering. I would love to keep going with the play groups, the baby ballroom dancing classes, pool therapy, sign language classes, parties, and play dates. All things that enrich our lives. But are they worth a hospitalization? We try to balance and so far this season, we've been pretty active and the illnesses have not been too bad. But, how far do you push it? Any thoughts? What works for your family?