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Fall 2005 Table of Contents
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Helping Your Customers Choose Toys for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Reprinted with permission from the Toy Industry Foundation, American Foundation for the Blind, and the Alliance for Technology Access.

Abstract: This article has been reprinted from the Spring 2001 edition of Baby Shop Magazine and was adapted from Guide to Toys for Children who are Blind or Visually Impaired (2000-2001), a joint initiative of the Toy Industry Foundation, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the Alliance for Technology Access. It helps parents, teachers, and family members choose appropriate toys for visually impaired children and stresses the importance of learning through play. For a complete copy of the guide, contact the American Foundation for the Blind www.afb.org or the Toy Industry Foundation www.toy-tia.org.

Key Words:Programming, blind, visually impaired, deafblind, toys, play, learning, creativity, social skills

Let's Play: A Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs - 2005 Edition.

As children, many of us had a favorite toy. Whether it was a stuffed animal, building blocks or a toy car, it inspired our creativity, could entertain us for hours, and was an outlet to explore the world around us. This need for discovery and love of play is a universal part of being a child. While all children have different needs, likes and interests, the desire to play is constant! Play teaches children about themselves, their surroundings, and how to interact with others.

Toys and play:

However, it's easy to take for granted how easily these skills are learned through sight. Children with visual impairments need additional support to learn these same skills and become familiar with their environments. Learning to play is the first step in this process and toys are wonderful outlets to open up the world of discovery and play. You can provide a valuable service to your community by becoming knowledgeable about the special needs of visually impaired children. Each toy presents a unique play experience for a child. A toy that encourages one child's creativity and confidence may not be effective to another child. Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting the types of toys that will be most enjoyed by children who are blind or visually impaired and enhance their play experience.

Manufacturers determine the age ranges for their toys for children who are not blind or visually impaired; these ranges may not be appropriate for the children you have in mind. When parents are selecting toys for special needs children make them aware that children develop skills at varying rates and that a child's own interests and skills are an excellent guide for your choices. They should be imaginative when selecting toys for children with special needs who may enjoy a unique way of having fun with their toys.

Children benefit the most when these toys are combined with playful interaction; parents can be a part of this experience by making play-time a priority! Most importantly, remember there is no substitute for sensible adult supervision of children's play, and that it is advisable to seek input from a physician, occupational or physical therapist if a child with special needs has fine or gross motor impairments, or other health concerns.

Apply these guidelines when helping parents to select toys that are fun and suitable for children who are blind, visually impaired or have special needs.

Parents should consider toys that:

We hope you find this Guide useful as you help customers to select playthings for the children in their lives. Remember, play-time can be an enriching, educational, and, most importantly, fun activity for all children.

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010