From the October 2015 issue

Special Needs-Related Items for Kids

Check out these special deliveries for children with special needs, including a wonderful documentary and a fidget toy from a Southfield toy company.

Diving into autism

Spectrum, a powerful little 23-minute documentary/animation hybrid film, invites viewers to really feel autism, with their senses. The braided narrative provides portraits of three people with autism – a martial artist, painter and poet – plus and a group of lively kids at a gymnastics program for kids with autism in L.A.

It’s set to a soundtrack that captures “an unexpected but optimistic journey,” the producers said in a release. Directed by California indie filmmaker Jill Jones, who grew up with a cousin with autism, it even features narration by Temple Grandin.

Rent or purchase Spectrum online for $1.99-$2.99.

Getting inventive

A Canton kid was “tired of opening greeting cards.” So Christian Blankenbaker, 10, who has high-functioning autism, created this gadget with his dad, Phillip.

The green and white (Christian’s a big Spartans fan) plastic cards, which fit easily in your hand, record an up-to 30-second message that begins when its censor is exposed to light. That allows you to get to your presents faster, the inventor explains. “That’s why we call it timesaving technology!”

Christian charmed Kickstarter backers this summer with his energetic video pitch, complete with goofy little sketches with his dad. Besides cards, he pointed out, the Greet-o-Matic is great for lunchbox messages, desk pranks and “warnings in the fridge not to drink all the chocolate milk.”

It’s reuseable; the button cell batteries allow 300-400 plays. (And don’t worry: There’s an on-off switch, too.)

It goes on sale this month. Costs are $5/one, $13.50/three or $20/five.

Fiddling around

It’s a simple concept: Stitch a marble into a woven mesh tube. Playing with it is practically irresistible. But for special needs kids, toys like this have extra perks.

The latest creation from Endless Possibilities, a toy company based in Southfield, “Fidgets” offer tactile stimulation – which plays a significant role in relaxation for those with ADD, autism and sensory challenges, president Joyce Murphy says.

Her grandchildren inspired the contraption, also available with a carabineer. They’re a great toy for children with high-functioning autism and other special needs, who can benefit from tactile stimulation.

The Fidgets are a modified spin on Boinks boinks.com, the company’s trademark toy (they look a little like those “finger trap” games, only made of plastic; Murphy’s three now-grown kids invented them back 1987).

So roll, squeeze or pull ’em: Fidgets calm fingers, quell nerves, calm minds and they’re discreet enough stash in a pocket. They’re washable, too.

Packets of three are $5.99 online, or buy from select local retailers.

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