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TRENTON – Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly today encouraged families and friends of children with physical and developmental disabilities to buy holiday gifts that are both fun, stimulating, and match the abilities of each child.

“Family members or friends of children with disabilities can find appropriate gifts in big box stores and small businesses, alike. There’s no need to go to a specialty shop or to spend a lot of money,” Connolly said.

A search online for toys related to special needs suggests toys such as talking books, stuffed animals or puppets to help children incorporate language learning and social interaction.

Children with visual impairment are encouraged to play with items that stimulate other senses, such as hearing and touch. Textures like soft or squishy versus hard toys can teach the child to manipulate texture. Also, blocks in braille can be entertaining and educational for a child with vision loss.

Playing with  shapes or pegs puzzles and balls can benefit children lacking in fine motor skills and board games using dice or game pieces teach children how to take turns and to build eye-hand coordination.

The department’s Division of Disability Services Director Joseph Amoroso explained that  people often either overestimate or underestimate a child with special needs’ abilities and that gifters should discuss the child’s likes and developmental levels with parents or educators.

Although Amoroso acknowledges that some gifts can be educational, he also cautions gift givers to focus on fun gifts, not presents that “will fix them.”

Amoroso also noted that many chain stores carry toys for children with disabilities or toys featuring children with disabilities. A quick Google search will turn up a host of ideas and locations.

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