Special Needs Parenting

Practical products and resources for children with behavioral and sensory challenges

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If you are new to my blog, let me briefly explain that our son, who is almost five, faces a lot of behavioral and sensory challenges. His official diagnoses are ADHD and adjustment disorder, but he also has “definite sensory processing differences” and deals with a lot of problems in the emotional regulation department.

The following list are things that we use in our home for him on a regular basis – some we use daily. Some are free. Some are not.

These are also things that children who do not face serious behavioral challenges can use and find helpful – because all children, young ones especially, deal with behavioral bumps along the way.

Practical products and resources for children with behavioral and sensory challenges

Visual Timer Apps

I discuss how we use visual timers for playtime in my post Encouraging independent play (with children who hate being alone), but we also regularly use visual timers for other things. It was incredibly helpful in smoothing out our bedtime routine last fall (which is currently in flux again, as we prepare for new baby) by allowing our son to have 5 minutes of active time and then 10 minutes of rocking time before bed. Using the timers let us give him what he wanted in interaction with us, but still gave him (and us) a visual boundary of how long it would last.

The two timers we use are the Time Timer app and the Children’s Countdown Timer app. For anything that’s active, we use Countdown as it makes a ticking noise while it’s running, which is helpful to remind children of the passing of time even if they aren’t looking at the timer. For something that is a quieter activity requiring focus (such as eating), or calming (such as rocking), we use the Time Timer app which is visual but doesn’t have the constant ticking sound.

Series 8 Waist Trimmer

This is something that was recommended to us via occupational therapy. This waist trimmer is a very inexpensive alternative to buying a weighted sensory vest. While it does not have weights, it can be worn around the abdomen to give a child seeking sensory input pressure on his or her body.

The Series 8 brand is carried by Five and Below if you have one of those stores locally. They also carry $5 exercise balls, stretch cords, spiky balls, and other items that can be incorporated into a sensory or fitness diet for your child. These products are also available on Amazon. The Waist Trimmer costs around $15. 

Our occupational therapist recommends wearing this for 30 minutes at a time, maximum.

Easy Daysies Visual Schedule Magnets

Easy Daysies says it better than I can:

For kids with special needs, event transition (that is, stopping doing one thing and starting on another) can be a very important and delicate part of the day. Easy Daysies provides a step by step breakdown for specific routines children need to work on.

Many kids with special needs thrive on routine and predictability. Easy Daysies helps kids know what is coming next, which helps to lessen anxiety, curb “meltdowns”, and make everyone’s day a little bit easier. Easy Daysies provides kids with visual indicators allowing them to be familiar and predict what is happening next giving them a sense of safety and comfort.

Easy Daysies magnets are on the pricey side, but I can say after using them for almost a year that they are a worthwhile investment if your child struggles with transitions or if you are trying to establish good habits or a routine (especially on summer days when you might do different things every day).

Shop now to see the different product options they carry! 

IKEA Children’s Circus “Calming” Tent

When our son was in inpatient behavioral therapy, each room held it’s own “calming space.” In his main classroom, they used this circus tent and called it the “Calming Tent.” We purchased one for our home that stays in our son’s room.

When our son gets very upset, he can make the choice to go into the tent and have some space and time to calm down. He still struggles and resists using it, or tries to use it at inappropriate times such as to get out of a punishment or doing something we have asked him to do, but it has been helpful for him to have his own space. We have found this to be far more effective and less punitive than a “time out chair.”

Find more tents here

photo credit

Guided Imagery and Relaxation for Children

I have personally found guided relaxation to be so helpful for me that I decided to try it with my son. Youtube has a lot of great FREE relaxation and sleep videos for kids {view our playlist here}. You can also purchase CDs from Stress Free Kids or the Sleep Well For Kids from Live Well Series.

Chomper Chums Teeth Brushing App

Chomper Chums® is a colorful, animated app featuring three lovable animal characters—a lion, a horse and an alligator— who team up to make brushing, flossing and rinsing a super fun game!”

We used this app regularly for about six months when really trying to get our son into a good teeth brushing routine. It is free, includes its own visual timer, has lively music, and gives incentives for completing these tasks.

Download Chomper Chums on iTunes.


I talked in detail about how we use YouTube as an at-home preschool resource, but as our son’s behavioral problems have manifested and changed over the last year, I find myself turning to YouTube again and again for help! I am pretty convinced that there’s not much you can’t find on YouTube to help your kids!

Aside from our preschool playlists and guided imagery / sleep playlist, we’ve added playlists for anger management / emotional regulation stories; manners, routines, habits, and behaviorteeth brushing songs (when Ezra finally got bored with the Chomper Chums app); and most recently, a playlist about becoming a big brother!

We also use YouTube to pull up our favorite songs and videos to play in the background to help motivate Ezra with chores or activities of daily living, such as getting dressed or picking up toys; or for distraction during haircuts and nail trims. This video of the Superman Theme Song is pretty much one of his favorite things ever!


SticKids is “A software and activity kit that supplies user friendly therapeutic strategies to support Sensory Processing, Sensory Integration and motor challenged children. Easily create unlimited visual aides of trackers, planners, games and activity cards for daily functional events, sensory diets and cognitive self regulation.”

SticKids is an expensive program, but is used by our occupational therapy provider so we were able to access some of the products through them. (This is definitely something you will want to ask your OTs about if your child is in OT!)

We use this by having a chart in the kitchen of sensory and behavioral techniques that Ezra can use when he is upset or out of control hyper. It gives him choices, and helps US to remember all of the things that we have taught him to do to regain control.

18 stick kids

Hammock in a Bag by Bliss

I heard about this from my sister-in-law! We don’t have any swings (indoor or outdoor) at our home, but swinging is incredibly calming sensory support for Ezra. We were able to purchase one of these and hang it under some trees in the backyard and it has been LIFECHANGING!

Any hammock will do, but I recommend this brand because, if you are lucky, you can purchase this for under $20 at Ross. It’s also available at other stores and on Amazon, but not for that low a price.

23 hammock time

Other Products:

Latitudes is a nonprofit that helps kids and families deal with neurological and behavior disorders. Their nonprofit has created hundreds of FREE printable behavior charts as a resource to help parents and teachers improve child behavior. You can view these charts here.

Fun and Function is an entire website with toys and tools designed for children with special needs! There are tons of sensory supports and calming items that there are way too many to list! I hope you will click through and take the time to check them out!

I hope that this list has been helpful for you and your children. Please let me know of any other products, apps, or resources that have helped you – or come back and share if you try any of these and they work well for you! 


  • Mother of Twins and One More

    Dear Aprille,

    I came across your blog when I was trawling the net searching for tips to help develop my son’s independent play skills. Immediately, I was struck by your blog. You write with such eloquence, warmth and honesty. I felt I had met a friend. Your suggested strategies and ideas have worked a miracle on my son. Three months ago I had a child who hated his own company, and would pester his twin to play. Now he regularly and enthusiastically occupies himself for 60 minutes or more. Learning to play has allowed his creativity, focus and self confidence to flourish. I thank you for sharing your knowledge and your life. I thank you for uplifting me when down and helping me find beauty in my mess. I wish you and your family all the very best and pray for the safe arrival of your next son.

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