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Pretend playwear for special-needs kids

Parents of kids with special needs learn early on to ignore the stares. But that doesn’t make the stares go away, and kids with special needs often seek ways to look more like their more typical friends. A new line of dress-up clothes bridges the gap between fun and function and lets kids with special needs play alongside typical peers.

If you’re outside the special-needs community, the numbers might astound you: Safe Kids USA estimates that 13 percent of kids in the United States have a special health care need. That’s 9 million children under age 18.

Whether typical or challenged, children love to play dress-up. In particular, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), sensory processing disorders (SPD) and other kinds of disabilities can gain so much from pretend play. But their differences can get in the way, leaving them even more isolated, and even more in need of the very play denied them.

Now a new line of dress-up clothes is breaking down some of the barriers preventing inclusive play. The Magical Apparel line lets 3- to 8-year-old kids dress up like firefighters, police officers, EMTs, fairy princesses and ballerinas. But unlike ordinary costumes, these outfits come with laces, snaps, buttons, zippers and hook-and-loop closures to help children develop fine motor skills.

For children who need extra sensory input, interior pockets allow you to safely insert optional weights. For many kids with SPDs, that extra input is the key to being able to function around friends. Once dressed, they can run and tumble with friends, and no one needs to know that anything is different. That’s an incredible gift — for kids and their parents.

Because these outfits don’t look any different from “regular” dress-up clothes, they’re fantastic for typical kids as well — so they can easily be incorporated into inclusive classrooms, daycare and home playroom settings. Neither kids nor most adults will distinguish between these and other costumes, which means there’s no special-needs stigma.

The brains behind the outfit

Magical Apparel was developed by pediatric occupational therapist Aviva Weiss and her husband. When she recognized that her own infant daughter had sensory-processing difficulties, the high prices of existing special-needs products and the lack of kid-friendly styling frustrated Weiss. So she got the job done.
The clothes she created are designed to help kids feel confident and happy while playing. The company she founded, Fun and Function LLC, offers engaging, durable, functional play and therapy products at affordable prices, including an exclusive line of scooters and portable writing kits.

Keep watching this space for more about her fantastic products — and some exciting chances to get involved in making a real difference in the world.

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