Since the seasonal holiday frenzy and call to shop occurs earlier each year (and is already in full swing), I’ve decided to add my seasonal tips and resource links earlier as well, hoping it helps kids with special needs and their families have a more festive holiday season.

First up, gift buying for kids with special needs.

I remember well the times my son received a birthday or holiday gift that was neither age appropriate nor what he’d hoped for. It wasn’t because people didn’t mean well, but because they lacked the understanding and comfort level about what would be a great gift choice for a child with significant physical challenges. Their choices, and refusal to ask what Eric wanted, reflected that disconnect.

Those moments of big disappointment for my son as we excitedly unwrapped his gifts were tough to witness. That’s why I’ve become a fan of the annual Toys “R” Us Guide for Differently Abled Kids. This terrific annual guide can help people make more appropriate and fun choices for kids with disabilities. For the past twenty years, the retail toy giant has produced the guide with a focus on helping encourage play for children with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities. This year’s celebrity cover choice is Holly Robinson Peete (HollyRod Foundation), who has a child with autism and understands well the many challenges facing special needs families.

You can find out more about the guide and watch a video here, while also accessing the Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys prepared by the National Lekotek Center, considered a key resource for toys and play for kids with special needs. Both resources can help you make a child’s holiday brighter, and that’s in keeping with the season.

Finally, don’t forget to allow your child with special needs to do gift shopping for others, too.

Happy shopping, and kudos to Toys “R” Us for all it does to support the special needs community.

Photo: RicStar’s Camp 2010 / Erik Taylor Photography