There’s lots of ‘specialist’ equipment, aids and ‘accessories’ for children with additional needs available – some rather expensive and others rather pointless (in my opinion!) All children with additional needs are very different, all children with autism are very different and have different needs and challenges.
Here are ten things that we have bought/found/adapted that we use with Toby to help make our lives slightly easier. Hopefully some may be useful for some other children too!
- Volume Sanity app. Arguably THE BEST £2.99 I have spent in my life! Toby loves his iPad and loves listening to music and watching video clips. He watches the same couple of seconds over and over again, usually giggling away to himself. This can go on for hours at a time and he enjoys it so much that he blasts it out a full volume…great! Volume Sanity runs in the background and allows me to set the volume limit so he can’t turn it up any higher than I set (it can also be muted – ideal for times when it’s not appropriate to be blasting out Thomas the Tank in Korean). He does occasionally close the app which then allows him to get back up to full volume but if he does this I tend to put the iPad on Guided Access which then locks him in to a certain app…which he’s not a fan of! It really does save my sanity!
- While we’re on the subject of iPad’s….our second item is a Gumdrop iPad Case. We’ve been through loads of iPad cases (loads of iPads too but we wont go there!) and these ones seem to work the best for us. Gumdrop have a built in screen protector and rugged edges help to absorb impact when dropped/thrown. It would be perfect if it was waterproof however it does the job for and we currently have both of our iPads in these cases and they both have been protected against screen damage. We have tried various survivor cases in the past but this ones isn’t bulky and provides great protection. Check them out on Amazon here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gumdrop-Extreme-Maximum-Protection-Apple/dp/B009O7Z7YE
- Vibrating Chews – Toby has a lot of sensory needs and chews EVERYTHING! Recently I discovered Vibrating Chew toys which do exactly what they say on the tin…quite pricey but definitely work for us. They really help to chill him out when he’s distressed but due to the price tag he doesn’t often take them out of the house with him as with most of his chew toys he throws then when he is finished. You can also buy various heads and they can also help children with feeding issues –http://www.sensorydirect.com/sense/chewys/vibration.html
- I have written about three-way-tooth brushes before (Toby and the three way tooth brush) but I honestly can’t recommend them highly enough. Brushing his teeth is challenging and he only tolerates a toothbrush in his mouth for a very limited time…having bristles going three ways allows us to brush more of his teeth in the time he tolerates it being his his mouth. Worth researching if toothbrushing is a challenge in your house.
- Dungarees. Toby often tries to take his nappy off (and I’ll spare you the details of what he often does with the contents of his nappy..) Getting a nappy off is particually easy for him when he’s wearing trousers however its a bit more tricky when he’s in dungarees. However as dungarees can be quite difficult for children to unfasten when going to the toilet (which is a good thing for Toby) many shops stop selling dungarees at age 2. H&M, M&S and Next often stock them up to age 6 but they usually have to be ordered online. Thankfully he’s got my genes and is a little on the short side and so will fit into these dungarees for a while!
- Also in terms of clothing M+S stock great pjs and vests which again help to stop him taking his nappy off. I’ve written about them before … They have been so popular that they are extending the range to go up to age 16 which is great news.
- Mini trampoline – Toby loves to bounce and so we have an exercise trampoline in our living room for him to bounce on. The aim is to stop him bouncing on the sofas. It also works as a great door stop to stop him getting into our downstairs toilet (which he likes to sit in – feet in the water…) I think we bought it from Amazon but supermarkets and sports shops often sell them too.
- Also in our living room we have a Wigwam – yes there’s not much space for the rest of our furniture! Toby likes to have somewhere safe and enclosed to hide in…it used the be inside the washing machine. Having the wigwam gives Toby somewhere to go and hide (away from his little brother!) the challenge is keeping Teddy out of it! We bought this one from Argos for about £40.
- Wireless headphones. Lots of children with additional needs get overwhelmed by noise and many children like to wear ear defenders. Toby has a very on-off relationship with ear defenders…at the moment he doesn’t tolerate wearing them. However he does enjoy wearing headphones and listening to music which helps to distract him from the noises around him. He chews wires (hence needed in wireless ones!) and so these connect using Bluetooth. We can connect them to his iPad or to my phone which has a playlist of his music on. Again we’ve been through several pairs and tend to just buy them from Amazon. We don’t buy expensive ones as he throws/chews/loses them but you can usually get a pair for under £20 which do the job.
- And finally not another ‘thing’ but for us we need more than one of most things! We have two iPads (in the same cases), several blankets, four pairs of dungarees, lots of chew toys and at least six of his favourite cuddly toy – Peso the Penguin from the Octonauts! Toby likes to chew things and so his clothing, blankets and soft toys need a wash every day. It’s very rare to see him without something in his mouth and things get wet and smelly and can irritate his skin on his face too.
I’m sure there are many more and many things we haven’t discovered yet too!