Finding the perfect gift for kids with special needs - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Finding the perfect gift for kids with special needs

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Nine-year-old Marco loves to dance in his wheelchair. His family loves to see him smile, but the holidays can be a challenging time of year.

"We tend to do a lot of things at our house because we've put in a ramp, and our house is kind of set up for the disabilities," said Julie Mougin, Marco's mother. 

Marco's family fosters and adopts kids with special needs. Between the physical and developmental disabilities, it can be hard to find the right gift.

"It's just interesting -- the things that they can use to motivate him to learn things and kind of sneak it in under the aspect of play," said Mougin.

Laura Bohnenkamp works with Marco and other kids with a wide range of special needs, from cerebral palsy to autism at the Center for Disabilities and Development, part of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Toys, she said, are used to help kids learn.

"Kids like a range of toys," said Bohnenkamp, a speech pathologist. "Things that light up, things that have a lot of pieces, things to kind of take apart. We really like the things that make noise and light up and just do a variety of functions."

Toys are made for kids with any type of need, but adaptive toys are often expensive.

That's where the Internet comes in -- a simple search can help you adapt just about any toy.

"If you kind of just do your own search of how to adapt them, Google will bring up a ton of tips of how to go about that," said Bohnenkamp.

If you're still confused, communication is key. Experts say the best thing to do is ask parents what their kid needs most.

Marco's mom says parents should not be afraid to ask for help buying the right gift, no matter how much it costs.

School breaks can be a challenge for kids with special needs because of the breaking up of the daily routine of school and home.

Experts say you should schedule in some structured activities, like trips to the children's museum, park, or library.
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