A switch is a large button that an individual can push to turn on or off battery operated or electrical products. A switch can be used on toys, small appliances (such as a blender), for communication devices, and for educational or therapy tools. A switch removes physical, cognitive, visual, and behavioral barriers to using the everyday items that the general population takes for granted.
All you have to do is press to create action. Switches are a simple device with incredible potential. A switch enables individuals to use otherwise unusable items for communication, for activities of daily living, and for entertainment. It's amazing when you think of the doors switches open for a variety of impaired individuals. Literally - some handicapped access doors are operated with a switch.
One door that is difficult for certain Special Needs children to open is the door leading to play (excuse the pun). Play is how children develop physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially. It's supposed to be that way.
I often wonder how many children are labeled as having little awareness of cause and effect, no imagination, or no interest in playing with others when the real problem is that they need physical adaptations in order to develop these skills the natural way - through play. I'm saying this as a mother who has seen many times how proper physical accommodations have improved the quality of my daughter's play, therapy, education, and social interactions.
AdaptivePlay was started by an engineer and an Early Intervention Specialist who saw that in order to bring play into their lives, Special Needs children needed help interacting with toys.
adaptivePlay's mission is to:
1. Bring Play to everyone!
2. Create a stronger link between Play and Therapy
3. Raise awareness within the toy industry to encourage toy manufacturer to develop products that are inclusive of children with special needs.
adaptivePlay switch adapts new, regular toys for Special Needs children. I always imagined switch adapted toys to be simple cause and effect. The variety of toys at adaptivePlay go far beyond cause and effect - but more on that later.
Some benefits of switch adapted toys are:
- teaching cause and effect
- encouraging independence
- giving control over the environment
- letting the user display their personality
- improving self esteem
- promoting socio-emotional development
- helping therapists and parents work on fine motor, cognitive, and social therapy goals in a developmentally appropriate way
- enabling learning through play
- improving visual focus and tracking
Now about the toys. I did a little online comparison shopping, and adaptivePlay offers variety and competitive prices. I love that they have action toys just for boys!
Spider-Man-Zoom 'N Go 4x4 Webrider $34.99
One of the things that makes the adaptivePlay site stand out is that there is a video demonstration for every toy. Toy categories include Disney, Sesame Street, plush, bubblemakers, musical, and more. There's even a clearance and a pre-used toy section.
Unlike many other switch adapted toys etailers who only carry one toy for each category, adaptivePlay usually offers choices. Did you know that talking dolls could be switch activated? The You & Me First Words Giggle and Coo's Baby Doll ($29.99) talks, changes facial expression, and closes her eyes to go to sleep. The social potential of all the dolls caught my eye.
There are some Spanish and bilingual toys. This is a great example of the thought that goes into toy selection at adaptivePlay. You do have to read each toy description to find them. Having a category for Other Languages would make shopping easier and let site visitors know this option is available.
One of my favorites toys, which happens to have English/Spanish settings, is the Leap Frog Learning Drum ($28.99). The switch operator can also beat the drum, which will change the letter of the alphabet or song. Their assistant can change settings to provide additional stimulation. We had a version of this when my kids were younger, and they both loved it. We got years of play out of a musical drum like this one.
The videos really help shoppers understand how a toy functions. The Mini Melodies Guitar requires the user to maintain pressure on the switch, and the video does a good job of highlighting this feature.
AdaptivePlay wins the prize for "Most Patient Product and Site Review Sponsor Ever". Eva originally contacted me with this site review request back in December. She sent me Mickey's Melodies musical toy for a friend and my daughter's Occupational Therapist to review.
The toy arrived at the start of Winter Break, then school was closed for snow day after snow day, then a child who was using the toy got sick and another OT took it. Months later, Eva is still being patient about waiting for this review. I'm sure this graciousness extends to her customer service.
Mickey's Melodies retails for $46.99. This fun toy plays 10 songs, and I liked that it came in the original packaging.
Review #1, written by an Occupational Therapist:
On the first session she did stabilize the switch 1 x with her left hand and activated the switch with her right hand. This is the first time I have seen her use her left hand functionally as an assist. Since that time she has grasped other toys to create music/sound with her left hand on 3 or 4 occasions.
When the OT wrote me that the student lost interest in this particluar toy, I asked her if there was a delay with the switch activating the toy and this was her reply:
The switch activates the music pretty much instantaneously. I think with this student she is mobile enough to reach for what she wants so she responds better to toys that she manipulates in some way (of course this is not complex manipulation) rather than have a switch turn on/off the toy.
My friend, whose 21 year old Special Needs daughter use switches to assist with her activities of daily living and at therapy, had a different experience with this toy. She felt her daughter enjoyed the toy so much that she is buying it:
It was nice because of the music and the way it talked to her when she hit the switch. I felt it was encouraging for her.
After emailing back and forth with my friend and the OT using Mickey Melodies, I thought it might be helpful for the adaptivePlay website to include a description of what skill areas the toys emphasize, e.g. visual tracking, etc., to help shoppers with their selections. A more detailed breakdown of the toys' functions might make interesting reading in the adaptivePlay blog. You can always ask your child's therapist to watch the video if you are not certain if a toy is a good match for your child. Return policies are posted under the toys, just in case.
With a fun variety, competitive pricing, and dedication to their mission, adaptivePlay is making switch adapted toys accessible to Special Needs children.
You might also like:
Directory of Resources for Building a Special Needs Playground
Directory of Toys and Supplies for Home Therapy
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