This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at Atypical Familia.
Jyrobike is the World’s First Auto Balance Bicycle that features a patented Control Hub in the front wheel that uses gyroscopic technology to keep riders upright, even when they tip or wobble.
Riding a bike has not come easily for my son, Norrin. After he was diagnosed with autism, we learned that he didn’t have the strength or the coordination to pedal. For years we’ve worked with therapists trying to build up Norrin’s muscle strength and teaching him how to balance. We’ve bought tricycles, big wheels and even scooters – hoping Norrin would be able to master one. Eventually Norrin learned to pedal but he still lacked the focus, tired easily and had difficulty maintaining balance.
Last spring, we bought Norrin his first real bike. And while he showed an interest in riding it, he still needed a lot of work. Even with the training wheels he still had trouble with balance and had difficulty turning. Now that bike is too small and we’re wondering whether or not we should buy another. Norrin will still need training wheels and it may be years before he learns to balance independently.
That’s when I heard about the kickstarter campaign for Jyrobike I knew I had to share it! It’s the ideal solution for kids like mine. “Jyrobike is built on the core principle that bikes become inherently stable at higher speeds because the faster the wheels spin, the more balanced it becomes.” While originally designed for 3 – 8 year olds, “one of [the company's] stretch goal rewards will be very popular with parents of older children.” There are also plans to launch an adult product.
Jyrobike will change the lives of so many families with special needs, especially kids with autism. It allows children to learn to ride a bicycle with confidence and a sense of security. It will provide the physical activity they need to maintain their health and it’s a social activity that can be shared with family and friends. Bike riding is a skill that can lead to a more independent life.
These parents didn’t just think up stuff that would make life better for their kids with special needs—they made them happen. Props to them for inventions that enable all our children.
Dolls for kids with special needs
At 9-years-old, Hannah Feda was flipping through a toy catalog and noticed there were no dolls that looked like her. Hannah has Down syndrome; her mom, Connie, set out to find dolls that resembled her daughter, but didn’t find any she thought were good. So she set out to create her own with help from a sculptor, occupational therapists, and other parents. The result: Dolls for Downs, whose mission is to “represent children with disabilities in an honest, favorable light and give kids with disabilities a friend for life.” The company’s first deliveries will be arriving soon.
A cool way to get around
When DeeAnn and Jason’s son, Zachary, was a tot, they needed something to help him move around the house; Zach has spina bifida, and cannot move his legs. With the help of an engineering friend they came up with the ZipZac chair. Suddenly, Zachary had the ability to move around the house, pick up toys, and play with them by himself and generally be more independent. The chair is now available in two sizes, one for kids up to 3-years-old, and one for kids ages 2.5 to 5.
A safer sleep for kids with autism
Rose Morris had a son with autism who tended to wander in the night, leaving her concerned about his safety (and her sleep deprivation). While staying at a friend’s house, he ended up in a Pack ‘N Play with an afghan on top, secured by bungee cords. And that gave her the idea for developing The Safety Sleeper, a bedframe that turns any mattress into an enclosed canopy bed—enabling both kids and their parents to rest easy.
Educational apps for kids with special needs
British mom Bev Dean, founder of Special iApps, had some very cute inspiration: Her son William, born in 2005 with Down syndrome and other special needs. A former IT specialist, her drive to create engaging, educational apps for William lead her to become an Apple app developer. The apps she’s created include Special Words, Special Numbers, and Special Stories (all available on iTunes, for iPhone, iPad, and Android), with more coming soon.
Drool-proof clothing for kids with special needs
Kids with cerebral palsy often have uncontrollable drooling, and it’s hard to find ways to avoid sopping-wet shirts. Richard Kligman decided to create a line of high-quality, quick-dry, antibacterial, and good-looking clothing for his son, Moishe, an 11-year-old with CP, so “he would not have to wear a bib all day.” He hired a designer and raised $25,000 in funding on Kickstarter. Called Mianzi (which means “bamboo” in Swahili, the material the clothing is made from), the first batch of shirts—with long and short sleeves—are on pre-order.
An easy way to control devices
Phil Weaver began building contraptions for his son Jackson, then 3, a few years ago. Jackson his cerebral palsy and Weaver wanted his son to be better able to play with toys. So he came up with the Switchamajig, which enabled Jackson to easily control movements of switch-adapted toys. Now available, the device allows users to control up to six switch ports on switch-adapted toys and appliances. A new unit, the Switchamajig IR, works with non-adapted devices.
Know of other great inventions by parents of kids with special needs? Please do share!
Parents magazine wants to know all about favorite toys for kids with special needs, for an online toy guide! That’s where you come in, because nobody’s more of an expert than parents on what best works for their kids.
We want to hear about the toys that have benefitted your child with special needs this past year. Think about one that’s helped your child with speech/communication, fine-motor or gross-motor skills, or sensory or other issues. It can be a toy that’s been around for a few years, or one that came out this year—classic toy or new toy, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s helped your child developmentally, in some way, or encouraged or motivated them. If you have a blog, be sure to share the link because we’ll link to it.
Note: The guide will not cover video games or apps, just actual toys.
So please, tell us all about the great toys that have done your child good. You’ll be helping other parents of kids with special needs find toys to help their kids—and make life more fun for them, too.
Rule #1 of buying toys for kids with special needs: Make sure it’s their idea of fun. Just like any other child, kids with special needs won’t play with a toy unless it’s interesting to them (no matter how therapeutic you think it could be). Whether a child likes funny noises, blinking lights, things that go fast or all of the above, you want to keep his or her fascinations in mind when you’re looking for a toy that might give them a developmental boost. That doesn’t mean they won’t find the box the toy comes in more compelling, of course… like any child!
I know a thing or two about buying toys for special kids because I’ve spent 9 years getting them for my son, Max—not just for birthdays, but often when a therapist has recommended something. I’ve also done a couple of toy guides on my other blog, including this year’s Best Toys For Kids With Special Needs. A few pointers I’ve picked up along the way for buying toys for kids with special needs:
* Make sure the toy is at the child’s skill level. The age range printed on the packaging may have no relation to a child’s developmental stage, skills or attention span. Don’t get dispirited if you’re buying a toy for a kid who’s 6 that’s labeled ages 2 to 4. If it’s a toy that he’ll like that could also do him some good, it’s a Good Toy.
* Ask experts for recommendations. Check in with your child’s therapists, teachers, and even doctors. When I recently asked my son’s art therapist for ideas, she recommended a Cars 2 set of chalk that’s large size and will be easy for him to grasp (and that he’s going to hang onto 24/7, given his obsession with Lightning McQueen). Your child’s therapists will also be able to give guidance on the best way to position a toy for your child to play with.
* Ask other parents for recommendations, too. See what toys parents in your kids’ class are getting for their kids. Ask around on message boards, Facebook or Twitter. If you’re buying toys for a niece, nephew or cousin with disabilities or a friend’s child, don’t hesitate to ask the kid’s parents for recommendations. I’d much rather tell people what is going to work for my child than have them waste their money (or have to deal with returns).
* Do a trial run. With big-ticket items, like adapted bikes, see if your child’s school or therapy center will let you borrow the item overnight or for a weekend to see how both you and your child do with it.