Toy Adaptations for Special Needs Kids

Last year, the average american household spent nearly two hundred dollars on toys. As we head into the holiday shopping season, parents of disabled children may find their toy picks a bit limited. As Dr Bruce Hensel reported, there's a nationwide service that makes custom toy adaptations for special needs kids.

Two-year old Max Malec was born with spina bifida. But that doesn't stop him from playing.

"We wanted max to be as normal as another child, so he doesn't feel left out. And having an older brother to try to keep up with, max is on the go," father Mike Malec said.

When Max was unable to use his new tricycle with hand pedals, the family found help from the toy adaptation network. Occupational Therapist, Amy Frantz, works with technicians to find ways to custom-adapt toys, like Max's bike.

"So when they brought it in, you know, it wasn't really complex adaptations, but it was enough to enable this little boy to use it successfully, and they were excited. The little boy was so excited," Frantz said.

For Max, they added trunk support straps, blocks to help his feet reach the pedals and velcro closures to secure his feet.

This center offers toy adaptations year round. The average turn around time is one to two days, and it's all free.

"I think it's very important because you know, most people take play for granted. And when a child cannot play, developmentally, they're gonna be behind. Because that's how you learn… through play," Frantz said.

"The bike or tricycle has made a big improvement in max's life, because he can now interact with his brother and enjoy being a child, playing, doing the play things that kids do," Mike Malex said.

Now, Max can take off. And big brother Mickey is racing to keep up with him.

"Toy adaptations can range from adding suction cups to hold a toy in place to replacing tiny switches or enlarging and extending knobs and levers. There are several rehabilitation centers around the country that offer the service," Dr. Hensel said.

For more information, call 8-8-8-fix-a-toy.

Last year, the average household spent $191 dollars for toys.
Toys are an important part of playtime activities and play a role in learning and social development.
The Toy Adaptation Network custom-modifies toys, free-of-charge, for special needs children.
For more details, refer to our comprehensive research summary.

For general information about toy adaptations:
Alliance for Technology Access,
Disability Resource Directory,
The Family Center on Technology and Disability,
Toy Adaptation Network,, or call (888) FIX-A-TOY

The Toy Industry Foundation has put together a guide with some suggested toys for children with special needs. You can find the booklet at:

For information on developmental disabilities:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities,

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