Thirty years ago, it was very difficult to find toys designed for children with physical and other disabilities. Toy companies did not believe or realize that there was a market for such toys. Today, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that there are six million children who have some kind of disability. Toy companies are just now beginning to catch on, recognizing that there is money to be made in this previously untapped group.
Some of the earliest alternative toy companies were founded by the parents of children with disabilities. Joanne Consentino, whose child was born with both mental and physical retardation, started Byrn Mar Toys. The company produces devices that allow children to control toys through alternative means; using their head instead of their hands, for example. The company’s toys are being used in homes and in classrooms throughout the country. Bigger companies like Mattel have released toys like Barbie “friend in a wheelchair” and Little Tykes has created dollhouses that are wheelchair accessible.
Being aware of companies that produce toys for children with physical and other disabilities is valuable knowledge to have as teacher. Toys and other devices being developed by these companies that are more appropriate for disabled children can serve to enhance both learning and self-esteem. If the products are too expensive for a teacher to afford on their own, of course there is always Donor’s Choice (previously Means for Dreams).
Contributed by: Mike Lederman
Brenner, Elsa. (November, 26 2000). “Parents Make Toys for Disabled Children”
The following is a list of companies that help provide toys for children with disabilities:
Let’s Play! Projects
This Web site features information about assistive technology, adaptive toys, play, and vendors.
Disability Resources Monthly Guide
This site offers resources to find toys for children with disabilities.
Alliance for Technology Access
A Web site providing ideas, articles, and links for information on play and children with special needs.
Founded in 1982 by two speech pathologists, Laureate Learning Systems publishes software for both children and adults with learning disabilities.
Exceptional Parent Toy Recommendations
Includes recommendations for both the best new toys and toys produced in the past three years by a panel of certified toy testers.
Dr. Toy, Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D., has developed a comprehensive year-round Web site of information on award winning topics. It also includes an excellent 2002 Holiday Gift Guide.
The Dragonfly Toy Company
The Dragonfly Toy Company
291 Yale Avenue
Winnipeg, MB, Canada
PLAY pen has tremendous resources for shoppers including various articles on special needs children with information on recreational and educational play.
12249 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel: (310) 979-4330
Fax: (310) 979-4350
This site includes an online newsletter with short articles providing toy-related accommodations. This Web site enables the shopper to access toys by category, manufacturer or retailer.
Center for Creative Play
This site contains a variety of tips for adapting or creating toys for children with disabilities, or making the play environment more accommodating.
Flaghouse Special Populations
150 No. MacQuestern Parkway
Mt. Vernon, NY 14222
The catalog contains an extensive selection of adaptive toys and therapy products.
Oppenheim Toy Portfolio
40 E. 9th Street, Suite 14M
New York, NY 10003
A reviewing organization with a full chapter in their book, The Best Toys, Books, Videos & Software for Kids, dedicated to choosing and using "ordinary toys for kids with special needs".
For a more complete list, visit: