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Products for the Special Needs Environment

August 18, 2010

Provided below is a list of ideas for toys and potentially helpful products when working alongside a child with special needs.  Many of the below products have come to me by way of special education professionals, pediatric therapists and experienced servants inside church-based disability ministries.  Some website links are provided for readers to see an example and not as an endorsement of a particular company or specific product.  Many products are available from multiple sources.    Some aides and ideas are very generic and can be found at any super store.

**Readers:  Please add your favorite products in the comments section of this post!**

Rocking Chair – children can retreat to an area away from activity and rock in order to settle down and self organize

Bean Bag – provides a physically comfortable and visually differentiated area for a child to perch and recollect

Small Trampoline – children requiring a quick fix for gross motor movement can oftentimes calm after a spell jumping on a mini-trampoline

Tent – allows a child to block out visual “noise” and recollect

Sensory Box with squeeze toys, stress balls and manipulative three-dimensional figures – see the blog post How a Slinky can Teach Creation

Puppet or stuffed animalgreat for commanding attention or giving gentle correction while invoking humor (also keeps the tone of correction and redirection positive).  Puppets can have a magical way of invoking a favorable response from children!

Musical Instruments – ring a bell, shake a tambourine or tap a metal triangle to signal a transition or capture students’ attention.

Visual Schedule or Visual Cue Cards – provides visual communication

Guide Ropes – provides a focused guide for a child requiring assistance during physical transitions

Painter’s Tape, Placemats, Carpet Squares or Hula Hoops – can delineate visual boundaries and assist a child in defining his/her own personal space.  Mark off individual space on the ground noting where a child may sit during story time.  Similarly outline a child’s space at the activity or snack table with painter’s tape or placemats

Gator Skin Balls – constructed with medium density form, come in all shapes and sizes

Bumpie Koogle Balls – bounces even if partially inflated, bumps make it easier to catch and provides sensory feedback.

Puffer Balls – super soft bouncy balls with easy to grasp strands (sensory input)

Tether ball – children look to hit the ball as it swings around a pole, can play by self or with others (striking and catching skills)

Team Top Toss – players take turns trying to wrap the bolo balls on the rungs to score pints. The swinging motion helps with success in this game:

Rody Toy – made of vinyl material, different sizes for different weight, children love to hop around on this 4-legged toy. Much safer than other bouncy balls that can roll forward if the child isn’t balancing it adequately. Great for some kids to sit (or quietly bounce) on during Bible story time instead of a traditional chair.

Parachutes – children can help lift up and down or sit/lay underneath as the parachutes rises, parachute activities have a calming effect

Lauri Foam Peg Board with Plastic Stacker Pegs – provides focused play for children who may need an occupier or focused distraction (during Bible teaching, music time or otherwise restless situation). *I personally recommend this product!*

Multi-sensory Environments or Snoezelen RoomsFor churches with an interest in designing a multi-sensory environment or providing something more akin to a special needs play room, TFH USA, associated with,  may be a good resource.  This company has worked with church based disabilities ministries in designing and outfitting such environments.  Their staff can also guide a church looking to purchase a small handful of products.  A phone conversation may be helpful because the online catalog is overwhelming!

From → Resources

  1. Nina Ornt permalink

    I bought my students each a light up spinning ball wand. It encourages cause and effect as the child pushing the button makes the clear ball on the top of the wand light up with colorful lights. The lights stop spinning and go off when the child lets go of the button. They can be calming and are very popular with special needs children and special needs educators.

  2. Nina Ornt permalink

    In my classroom this summer I also created a “sensory choice time.” I made 8 sensory bins from dishpans. They each held one of the following items: water, foam soap, uncooked elbow macaroni, uncooked rice, uncooked rotini macaroni, obleck ( a cool type of goop made with cornstarch and water that is wet when you pick it up and dry when it touches the pan) cotton balls, and feathers.
    I made 8 small picture symbol cards each with a picture of the item in the pan. These cards were attached to the outside of the dishpans. I made 8 more identical cards which I put on a choice board. The students got to make a choice of which sensory item they wanted to explore. After a short time we rotated and got to choose a different item which helps those with a short attention span. My students had a fun time enjoying sensory integration during choice time.

  3. Nina – These are GREAT ideas. I love this. I want to find out more about obleck (I’ve never heard of that before). Thanks for your help!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Why Can’t I Find Special Needs Children’s Curriculum? « The Inclusive Church
  2. Curriculum Ideas and other Resources for Special Needs « The Inclusive Church
  3. Child Refuses to Sit Still « The Inclusive Church
  4. Developing a Special Needs Ministry’s Goals & Mission « The Inclusive Church
  5. Special Needs Ministry Sensory Room « The Inclusive Church
  6. Good Finds! Toys-R-Us Differently-Abled Toy Guide (& my product pics for kidmin) « The Inclusive Church
  7. FAQ’s: How Can We Supply a Special Needs Ministry on a Low Budget? « The Inclusive Church
  8. Good Finds! 2012 Toys-R-Us Differently-Abled Guide & #Kidmin Product Picks « The Inclusive Church
  9. Creating a Special Needs Ministry Budget | The Inclusive Church

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