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12 Back-to-School Items You'll Want to Get for Your Kid With Disabilities

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I have two kids with disabilities, which means for us, back-to-school shopping has to meet two main guidelines:

1) Is it sensory friendly?

2) Does my kid have the fine motor skills to use it?

I have seen the cutest water bottles, but realistically my kids do not have the hand strength to open or close them. Shoes with ties are a no-go.

When we shop for back-to-school items, my main concern is for my kids to be as independent and successful as possible. I want the tools available to them to make learning easier and not more of a struggle.

I was at Target a few days ago and came across the best food containers. This got me thinking, I bet some parents have found that one item that makes a huge difference.

So we reached out to our Mighty parents and asked them for ideas on what items they consider a “must have” as their kids begin school.

One thing I want to point out, if you are anything like me, it’s frustrating when our kids have limited options and those options come with a high price tag. Several of the items mentioned could be provided by school, and in one instance, possibly covered by insurance.

These are some of our recommendations:

1. Blue Water Bento containers.

My daughter, who has Down syndrome, has always needed teachers to help her during lunch because we never seemed to have containers she could open independently. These lids just “peel” right off. She was able to open them without issue, which means no more waiting for an aide to come open her food containers before she can start eating her lunch.

Buy for $34.99 from Amazon.

2. Jumbo colored pencils.

For kids who need help with fine motor control, chunky pencils help with grip and precision. School might provide appropriate colored pencils for your child. Make sure to ask.

Buy for $7.99 from Amazon.

3. Triangular #2 pencils.

Kids go through lots of pencils each year, and not being able to grip the pencil well can result in many broken pencils. These help with grip. This might also be provided by school, ask the special education teacher.

Buy for $9.82 (36 count) from Amazon.

4. PenAgain.

PenAgain ergonomic ink pen helps kids with disabilities.

Alternative pens can help kids grip and write more easily. PenAgain pens have a sensory-friendly, slip-resistant rubber coating, and are refillable. Talk to your OT and see if the school can provide these.

Buy for $7.59 from Amazon.

5. Nike Revolution 3 Flyease.

Do you notice anything about this shoe? There is a zipper in the back for kids who wear AFOs. I have a child who wear orthotics, and shoe shopping is always a discouragement because it is hard to find shoes that fit and look stylish. This shoe has no ties, so no worries about that either. Some insurance plans cover the cost of shoes for kids who wear AFOs. Nike designed these shoes for that purpose specifically, so call your insurance and ask if they will reimburse you for shoes.

Buy for $52 from Amazon.

6. Chewable jewelry.

This is the original chewable jewelry. Run by parents like us. Lots of options to choose from. Designed for kids with sensory issues who seek oral stimulation. Perfect for active chewers.

Cost: $9.95 and up.

7. Electric pencil sharpener.

Electric sharpeners help kids who struggle with fine motor skills. Just remember, when buying an electric sharpener, if you also have chunky pencils, make sure the sharpener is designed to work for those sizes.

Buy for $15.99 from Amazon.

8. Click pens.

A click pen with a soft feel. Click pens can work better than a pen with a cap, plus add the more sensory-friendly grip and it’s a win.

Buy for $9.49 (12 count) from Amazon.

9. Grid notebooks.

For some kids, using grid paper is easier than lined paper. This might be covered by school, ask the special education teacher.

Buy for $7.99 from Amazon.

10. Key rings or fun keychains.


Unicorn keychains.

If your kid has trouble with zippers (backpack, lunchbox, jacket) adding a key ring may help with those fine motor skills. You can find sets of keychains with your child’s favorite character or interest on Amazon. Some keychain charms can double as fidget or stress relief objects. This might be covered by school; ask the occupational therapist.

Buy for $7.39 (fun keychains, pack of eight) from Amazon.

11. Wheelchair push gloves.

Fingerless gloves for pushing wheelchair.

School floors are dirty, and sidewalks can get wet and muddy. Kids who use manual wheelchairs can keep their hands cleaner with a set of fingerless athletic gloves.

Buy for $19.97 from Amazon.

12. Locker locks.

If your school requires kids to have locks for their locker, this might be an option for you, and school should cover the cost. Talk to the special education department or therapists, stressing how a magnetic lock will give your child more independence, which is always a goal for our kids. These locks are magnetic, which allows the user to just touch the key to the circular, matching key pad.

Cost: $135.72

What are your “must have” items for back to school? Let us know in the comments.

Originally published: August 23, 2017
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