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Holiday Gift Guide for Kids—and Their Adults—with Spinal Cord Issues

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Holiday Gift Guide for Kids—and Their Adults—with Spinal Cord Issues

By:Danielle Shaw, United Spinal Association, Action online Magazine November 20, 2009
This article was originally published in Action Online and is reprinted here with the express Permission of the United Spinal Association.

Here are some gift suggestions for children, parents or grandparents with special needs

If your child has a spinal cord injury or disorder, you may find it difficult to choose the perfect toy for her. Or if you’re a parent or a grandparent with a disability, you may feel frustrated when trying to play with your child or grandchild with toys he will enjoy. It doesn’t have to be this way! Here are some recommendations for several great toys your kids will enjoy that will also help with gross motor function—yours and theirs. But most of all, these toys are just fun!

This list of toys has been recommended for kids with spinal cord disorders by pediatric physical therapist Eric Pollack, MSPT, owner and founder of Little Wonders Child Growth & Development Center, Inc., in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, in consultation with occupational therapist Ingrid H Smith. What’s great about many of these toys is that they encourage action and movement. They are great toys for wheelchair users as well. Even if you don’t pick these particular items, these selections may help get you thinking about what to look for in toys for your child.

Great for Gross Motor Function

The PlasmaCar is a great ride-on that is powered by holding on with the hands and rocking slightly back and forth. This is a great vehicle for children with limited or no leg movement. ($69.95, PlasmArt, Inc,* Similar is the Roller Racer, which is also arm powered and moves when the child pulls the handlebars back and forth, with no leg movement necessary. ($84.95, Mason Corporation,

ESPN Better Batter Baseball is great for kids with mobility issues because it sets the ball up on its own, so no bending down is needed. The child just taps home plate, and the ball is automatically loaded and held in place so the child can easily take a swing. Sound effects and music encourage the game play. ($49.95, Fisher Price,

With Squeeze Rockets, the child squeezes a bulb, and a rocket launches up to 30 feet in the air. These are also available as Stomp Rockets, which are launched with a stomp by the foot. ($3 for 10 Squeeze Rockets or $15 for Junior Stomp Rockets, D&L Corporation,

Gertie Balls, which are playground-type balls, are very soft and pliable, making them easy to grip and catch. They also come in glow-in-the-dark balls and as pimple balls. ($7.99 to $10.99, Small World Toys,

The Giant Foam Block Set includes just what it says—giant blocks made of foam that are fun for building. Sixteen huge blocks are included. ($99.95, EduShape,

Giant Bowling is also fun for kids of all ages. The huge inflatable ball is easy to throw for kids whose strength is in the upper rather than the lower body. The pins are nearly 29 inches high. Giant Bowling is fun for outdoors or for a large basement or gym. ($39.98, Manley Toys,

Cranium Hullabaloo requires a lot of movement and action, which of course can be adapted to the child’s ability level. In this nontraditional board game, players listen to instructions and then “bounce, twist, spin, high-five, and dance.” ($24.99, Hasbro,

Frisbee Golf and the mini parachute (various manufacturers), which you may remember from your school years, are also fun choices. Also consider some classic favorites such as the Sit n Spin. (Playskool, $24.99,

For Fine Motor Coordination

In children who receive physical therapy for gross motor skills, fine motor coordination and perceptual skills are often neglected. To give these areas some stimulation, some of the classic board games you may remember from your childhood are great choices. Try Hungry Hungry Hippos by Hasbro ( and Hi Ho! Cheerio!, Elefun, Cootie, Don’t Spill the Beans, Ants in the Pants, and Barrel of Monkeys, all by Milton Bradley (

* Manufacturers and distributors are provided, but many of these toys are also available from general toy retailers.

Our Featured Organization: United Spinal Association

United Spinal Association is a national 501©(3) nonprofit membership organization formed in 1946 by paralyzed veterans who pioneered the disability rights movement.

Our mission is to improve the quality of life of all Americans living with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and post polio.

The core belief of United Spinal is that, despite living with a disability or mobility impairment, a full, pro-active, and rewarding life is not only possible, it is within the reach of anyone with the strength to believe it and the courage to make it happen. For over 60 years, we have been an active voice in the disability community and a leading provider of outstanding programs and services for individuals with disabilities.

Please support our contributing Organizations and visit United Spinal Association

Danielle Shaw is a freelance editor and writer and author of the blog She can be reached at [email protected]

Tags: Article OT PT Parental Involvement Spinal Cord Injury - Paralysis