• Health,  Mental Health,  Sports + Games

    Fun, Calming Fidgets For Your Sensory Tool Kit!

    What We’ve Got
    Favorites

    Flashing color ice cube by Litecubes The best party favor ever! It flashes in about 7 colors that you can control. Meanwhile, it’s actually waterproof! Although they’re sold as drink-ware, they make great fidgets! I found it on www.partyglowz.com. About $5.50 each plus shipping and handling. You can buy them in bulk for less.

    Rainbow star-shaped miniature slinky I see my son using this one the most! It’s bouncy and the colors run into each other as you stretch and flick it. There is one just like it as part of a glow-in-the-dark 6-pack on Oriental Trading Company’s website. 12 pieces for $5.28! 

    Go-Tos

    Pineapple Pop-It A teacher gave him this one as a prize. Amazon.com carries the yellow version for about $3.50. For an interesting twist, Etsy has it in rainbow! About $3.50 plus shipping and handling

    Stretchy-String This is also a big favorite. Surprise–one string stretches over 10 feet!  You can step on it and pull-pull-pull! Tie them together to stretch them 20 feet as well. Playing with these is both calming and energizing. Our local, lovable Therapro store has them in stock. Therapro is a great resource for many special needs items. They ship all over the country. About $6.95

    Ones to Grow With

    Speks These amazing little super-magnets come in many shapes and colors. Squish and squash them into different shapes for a satisfying sensory experience that also helps you focus. Now in rainbow! www.getspeks.com The adults in the house love them just as much as the kids do. About $35

    Twidget Liquid bulb toy with moving balls. Part of a three-piece set. The one pictured above is the most challenging of the three! Squeeze one bulb and transfer the balls to the other one. Strengthen your hands all the while. Schoolspecialty.com carries these. About $36 for the set

    Interesting Finds

    Cyclops Sam squeeze ball toy Complete with stretchy hair and filled with squishable putty. He is no longer available new, but this sun-shaped squeeze ball with flashing and push-pop features will do the job! Check it out on amazon.com. About $7.99 for 2

    Beanbag baseball Good for a toss-around. This was probably a prize from the O.T. I found a soft, colorful bean-bag ball a lot like it on Flaghouse.com$3 each

    What’s your favorite thing in the sensory toolkit? Comment below!

  • Social Skills,  Sports + Games

    Inclusive Basketball–Hoops

    Originally posted 9/19: Sports were never my thing. Not that I despised them, I just felt a little…meh, I guess, about all of it. Like many people, I couldn’t see why the big excitement or all the time and money funneled into it. Then kiddo—now 11, found a game so beautiful and sparkly and true for him, that he can watch 2 hours of it without blinking his eyes much at all. This sport, this one and only, b-ball, brownball, hoops…you know, it’s “nothing but net” as the NBA fast approaches.

    He loves it and the NBA players so very much. He knows details about his favorites’ performances, and is on a first-name basis with many of them, though we haven’t been to a live game yet. It thrills his young heart to see replays of Wilt’s successful “granny shots,” and “Spicy P’s” last-minute 3-pointers.

    He even likes to play the sport—almost as much as he likes to watch it 🙂

    At first, I was just happy he was happy. He lights up a room. Then, the social possibilities of such an interest, I thought…are unlimited, I thought, eyes a-glitter. In came the basketball T-shirts, basketballs of almost every size and color, and as many trips to ball courts as we could stand.

    We were lucky to find a basketball team for kids with disabilities through Newton Athletes Unlimited—The Newton Bears. It was a Saturday basketball oasis, and we loved it. The coach made no apologies for his differently-abled team members, nor did he try to make them “pass,” or be “up to snuff.” It was “come as you are, do your personal best, and not only will we accept you, but you will have fun.” What a concept, sign us up forever!

    Each week I looked forward to seeing the faces of other parents who could relate to living with disabilities, who had been through the mill with their own versions of biomedical interventions, in-home therapy visits, sleepless nights long after toddlerhood, IEP meetings from the netherworld, and more.

    At the end of the season, Athletes Unlimited hosts an awards dinner at a local hall to honor their players from ages five-to-adult. That group knows how to party! Through the game weeks and up to awards night, part of me held my breath—here was something rare and happy—a break from the loneliness of special needs parenting.

    A few months later we decided to enroll him in a “typical” basketball clinic—a parallel universe with different rules:

    • Look cool.
    • Smile slightly, with a hint of enthusiasm.
    • Yes, you are being scrutinized.
    • Giggle when a child (not yours) misses the basket.
    • Humble-brag about how many baskets your child made in a row last week.

    There was no cheering for making it cross-court with the ball, and clapping would have been…juvenile. I turned into a seated, silent cheering squad. When kiddo looked over, I nodded my head vigorously and pointed to my dancing feet.

    He barely kept up, and I knew how hard he was trying. I was so flipping proud! Maybe this crowd—who seemed to have no reason to sign their kid up for The Newton Bears, was missing out…it’s possible Hallmark has me brainwashed, but I think it’s true. At The Bears’ practices, it was good enough to be together, to have some fun and laugh, to know you’re not alone, to have some empathy for each other’s humanity…I mean, what’s the point?

    TO BE INCLUSIVE, OR AT LEAST TRY…that’s the point.

    Competition is a fact of life and sure it has its place, but having some extra kindness and understanding never hurt, and pretty much raises everyone who sees it. Autism, or any other disability, is not contagious, so why not give inclusion a try?

    I would like to live in a world where inclusion is a given, not an anomaly or saved for special places and occasions like temple, church, or the holiday season.

    We as a society have a long way to go, I think. But if you see a disabled or disadvantaged person, why not go out of your way to be a little kinder and possibly make the world a bit warmer? Just saying.

    Ok, I’ll get off my soap-box now. But thanks for reading, just the same.

  • Sports + Games

    Easier Building Toys!

    MAGNATILES

    We like them because they are so…QUICK! We erected a grocery store within 10 minutes, and then got to work on the clay food. Not for children who like to gnaw, because the small magnets inside tend to fall out from time to time.

    The pieces are a substantial size, so it’s easy to build something large where all kinds of toys can interact.  I find them user-friendly for many kids, whether or not building is a preferred activity.

    The Magnatile wagons add extra play-value, but matchbox cars also work fine.

  • Social Skills,  Sports + Games

    Race to the Treasure Cooperative Game

    Let the Search Party Begin!

    You and your fellow players have a mission if you dare! Together, beat the Ogre to the treasure. Use your strategic and cooperative skills to design a path leading to the keys to the treasure before Mr. Ogre gets there!

    Good for the 5  and up crowd. Race to the Treasure combines  visual planning, graphing, and cooperative play into a fast-paced journey. An engaging game created by Gina Manola for Peaceable Kingdom, it’s easy to learn. Working together and agreeing on a strategy really counts towards winning!

    At the start of the game you roll the color and number dice to lay out 4 keys. Gather 3 out of 4 keys on your path to get the gold. Will you go north, south east or west? Increase the difficulty level by using a timer for each turn (not included), or by placing one or two ogres on the red Ogre Path at the beginning of the game. If you draw 8 Ogre tiles before your team gets to the treasure…he wins the race, and all of you get to try again.

    It’s a great game for young players as it nurtures cooperation and communication. Each game is a little different, so it’s entertaining for the adults who play along!

  • Social Skills,  Sports + Games

    Mole-Rats in Space Cooperative Game

    Watch Out For That Snake, Little Mole-Rat!

    Although we love winning and gloating about it in Uno and Monopoly, cooperative games are big around here–especially this one by Matt Leacock for Peaceable Kingdom.

    You and your mole-rat friends need to band together and help each other get to the space pod in the center of the game board where everyone will blast off to escape many hungry snakes! As you and your associates scurry around the tunnel network, there are a few necessary supplies to pick up for your intergalactic trip: a toothbrush, a turnip, a map and duct tape. Once you’ve all gathered these and make it to the mother ship, everyone wins the game and can safely take off.

    This can be a fast-paced game, and there’s suspense to the very end as the snakes have a way of multiplying indefinitely. A mole-rat can survive one bite from a snake because they can use the first-aid kit in their backpack. But if you’re bitten twice, you’re a goner and its game-over! Once one rat is out of the game, the adventure end–but have no fear, you can start the game again! The game play is about 20–25 minutes.

    Social Skills

    In order for the individual to win, all need to win. Similarly, if one player loses, all lose (womp-womp)! In a very direct way, this game promotes teamwork. If there’s enough buy-in and excitement, competitive players can have a chance to show off their supportive side.

    Upping the Ante (Spoiler Alert)

    Once you get the hang of the game, you can add to the challenge by opening up the special envelope containing 3 extra mole-rat cards. Each one places more snakes in the mix. Slowly introduce them one at a time, or throw in all 3 in for a triple dare!