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Just the Way You Are – September 6, 2011 - Toys R’ Us Differently Abled Toy Guide

                Some disabilities hinder children from playing in certain ways. For example, a child who can’t walk will not be able to play with a push and pull toy, at least not in the traditional way. A child who is deaf will get little pleasure from a toy whose main function involves music or noise. A blind child will not enjoy a toy such as a mirror. But one thing that disabilities do not do is stop children from playing. Despite any disability, children are still just children who learn by playing and exploring and a disabled child’s need to play is even more important to their development because of the propensity of the disability to slow or prevent their normal progress. When raising a child with a disability, it is a full time job to try to encourage the child to develop those skills that the disability might delay or prevent. Using the right toys is vital in that development. Although some examples as I have listed above are obvious to anyone, it can be hard to determine exactly what toys will promote a disabled child’s development, what toys are appropriate, and which ones they will enjoy.
Fortunately for the disabled community, Toys “R” Us has created a Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. Toys “R” Us has been publishing this catalog since 1995. The name of the catalog itself speaks volumes. It refers to the guide as something for children with different abilities, without including the word disabled. This shows a compassion and understanding that I appreciate, and I’m sure others out there who love someone with a disability would agree. According to the Toys “R” Us website, the guide is a “one-of-a-kind resource [that] speaks to a child’s individual needs and offers qualified toys based on research from the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization that evaluates all of the toys featured in the Guide.”
                This guide makes it easy for parents to determine what toys will be appropriate for their special little one. Toys are not divided into categories based on disability. Instead, toys are categorized with symbols that illustrate which skill the toy promotes. For toys that promote auditory learning, the symbol you will find is an ear and sound waves. For creativity, the symbol is a paint palette and brush. The categories include auditory, creativity, fine motor, gross motor, language, self esteem, social skills, tactile, thinking, and visual.  
                The catalog is put together by experts in the field, so parents can be sure that the toys they purchase based on this guide’s recommendations will help in the areas their kids need. Toys are selected for the guide by the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization that evaluates toys during play sessions and determines which skills it promotes development of. Then it categorizes these toys for children with special needs. The organization has over 30 years of experience in this area and has become a leader in this industry. To learn more about the National Lekotek Center, visit www.Lekotek.org.
                                Although this guide is created for differently-abled children, I think we can all agree that every child has different abilities and skills, unique personalities, and things that they struggle with. Because of that, this guide is a great resource for all parents, not only those with special needs children. We all want to encourage our children to grow and develop to their full potential, and having the right toys is a great way to help do that. The guide helps parents to pin point the toys that help their child where he or she is struggling. How valuable this is in a world where education and intellect are everything!
                To obtain a copy of the guide, you can visit www.Toysrus.com/differentlyabled. You can also send an e-mail to differentlyabled@toysrus.com to be added to the mailing list. Besides this essential  guide, Toys “R” Us is a wonderful advocate for the special needs community, giving  grants to nine major special needs organizations including Autism Speaks and Special Olympics just this year. I encourage everyone to take some time to visit the website and support a company who cares so much about the special needs community.
                If you every have questions, comments, or ideas, please e-mail me at laceybuchanan@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you!

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