MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The popular Twin Cities toy company, Creative Kidstuff, has launched a selection of toys for children with autism as part of Autism Awareness month in April.
The company partnered with St. David's Center for Child and Family Development in Minnetonka to research and select toys that benefit kids on the autism spectrum.
"To be able to do this is literally a dream come true," said Roberta Bonoff, president and CEO of Creative Kidstuff. "Where it came from, we have more and more families coming into our stores asking questions. "It's not only parents but it's grandparents, aunts, uncles, it's friends who have a child on the autism spectrum in their life, and they want to get them something special."
Staggering new statistics from the Center for Disease Control show one in 88 children has autism. That's a 23 percent increase since the last report in 2009 and a 78 percent increase since the CDC's first report in 2007.
Bonoff's staff wanted more information to cater to kids on the autism spectrum, so Bonoff reached out to St. David's Center since educators there offer early childhood education. The center has an autism day treatment program as part of its child development services.
"Autism is on the rise. It's a social and language disability and so much intervention happens around play," explains Julie Sjordal, executive director at St David's Center. Sjordal said she jumped at the chance to partner with Creative KidStuff to test and select toys that could be used in her school and by parents at home.
St. David's Center Psychologist Sarah Reyman said she selected toys that encourage interaction, social and sensory skills, imagination, communication and problem solving. For example, a classic jack-in-the box teaches cause and effect as well as anticipation. A large stuffed animal brings calming effects to a child with autism, helping them regulate their emotions. Books about emotions teach kids social cues, and asensory rubber ball encourages motor skills.
"This is a ball that is easy to catch, it's soft, and if I throw it to you, you will be able to catch it much easier," said Reyman. "I would say go with what your child likes, what they are passionate about, what motivates them."
The toys for children on the autism spectrum are available for sale in stores and online.
Creative Kidstuff has a special section on their website, under Kidstuff Toys for Children with Special Needs.
"This is very much from the heart, I could actually get quite emotional about it. This has been a long time coming," said Bonoff, who says she has been trying to develop the idea for three years.
Part of the sales proceed St. David's Center. Online, customers also have the option to donate $1 to St. David's Center at the time of purchase through the month of April.
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