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Tips to buy the right toys for kids with special needs

Specialists at the University of Iowa says any gifts that promotes interaction are best for children with special needs.

It's that time of the year again when children make out their Christmas list. While all children enjoy opening presents, local experts say there are some special considerations for child with special needs that people should think about.

“At markets it comes up every time we talk to people," said Maria Sanchez-Masi, co-owner of Kittd.

It's a question Sanchez-Masi says she hears at least once a day: what gift would be best for a child with special needs? For that answer, she responds with a question of her own.

“Sometimes we focus on limitations, but kids are kids. So what does this child like?," said Sanchez-Masi.

It's not often adults tell Maria their children can't play with one of the Kittd toys. Toys in the travel-sized kits include diner sets, finger puppets, and art kits.

When looking for a gift to bring joy to a child with special needs, Maria says there's one way to be sure you're on the right track: getting a list from the child or the child's parents. Another suggestion: knowing what not to buy, like most electronics.

“Some of those that just encourage the kid to sit and play by themselves, we tend to stay away from," said Laura Bohnenkamp, a speech therapist with the University of Iowa's Stead Family Children's Hospital.

Bohnenkamp says the do not buy list includes anything that would encourage solitary play. She says if the toy is loud, research shows that people talk and interact less. Instead go for gifts that encourage interaction, like dollhouses, puzzles, and books.

“They also promote language development and talking with your peers or family," said Bohnenkamp.

“There’s a toy out there for every child and you just have to find it," said Sanchez-Masi.

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