Guidelines for Choosing a Gift for a Child with Special Needs

By Diane M. McCullom

Walk into a gift store this holiday season, and chances are, you’ll be overcome with more items than you could possibly imagine—the hottest toy trends of the season and all things merry and bright. This same overwhelming sensation can be quite stressful for parents and those shopping for children with special needs. So what are some guidelines for finding that perfect, yet appropriate, gift for the child with special needs in your life? Here are a few questions to ask yourself when shopping:

Is the gift multisensory? If it’s a toy, does it respond with lights, sounds or movement to engage the child? Does it have scent, texture and contrasting colors? Sometimes these things can be overwhelming to children with sensory disorders, so depending on the specific needs of the child, these may or may not be positive things.

Does it provide open-ended play? This means the gift has no definite right or wrong way to use it. Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? Is it adaptable to the child’s individual style, ability and pace?

Does it meet the child’s individualistic needs and abilities? Does the gift allow for personal creativity and making choices? Is it developmentally appropriate?

Is it practical in terms of safety, durability and adjustability? Does it fit the child’s size and strength? Does it have adjustable sound, height, speed and level of difficulty? Is it easy to keep clean and store? Could it fit on a wheelchair tray?

For specific gift ideas, check out Toys”R”Us’ toy guide for “differently-abled” kids that categorizes items by different skill sets. For more than 20 years, they have offered this one-of-a-kind resource that provides parents and caregivers with gift recommendations that aid in the development of children with disabilities. With thousands of pins popping up under the search phrase “gifts for kids with special needs,” Pinterest is also a fantastic resource for finding gifts specific to the needs of each child.

Get creative with your gift buying and don’t forget to have fun with the process! With a little research and preparation, you can find the perfect gift and make Christmas special for these uniquely special kids.

Diane M. McCullom is the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 21 states.

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Sharkey’s Hair It Is

Sharkey's Hair It Is specializes in parties for little girls.

Sharkey’s Hair It Is specializes in parties for little girls.

The main floor of Sharkey's.

The main floor of Sharkey’s.

Walking into Sharkey’s Hair It Is is a visually stimulating experience.  With Hollywood lights lining the stylists’ mirrors, bold colors on the walls, a couple of televisions playing popular shows with options to play the Xbox, and pop culture music—both old and new—playing on the speaker, your attention is captured.

Originally based  in Connecticut as “Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids”, Sharkey’s Hair It Is was created to cater to the whole family.  With locations mostly in the East Coast US, and as far away as Ireland and Egypt , it is the first of its kind to show up in South Texas.  Owner of the local franchise, Marcos Saldivar, says, “My vision is to have one in each city here in South Texas.  We’re all about customer service.  When you come in, we treat you like you’re walking into somebody’s house.  We offer water and want people to feel comfortable.”


This pink room is a popular party venue for little girls.

When asked what the secret of their three years of success has been, manager Mary Valdez commented, “We have good customer service for the kids.  A lot of parents tell us their children are requesting to come and get their hair cut here.  We treat the whole family.  They leave very happy.”  The aforementioned Xboxes, she notes, are there for whoever wants to play them, whether it be a child or an adult.

A popular venue among little girls, Sharkey’s offers two different birthday party packages.  One is for 12 girls for two hours at $375, and includes a hairstyle, make-up and nails.  They also get to dress up and play planned games in between.  Sharkey’s provides drinks and pizza, and parents have the option of bringing a cake.  The smaller package is for 6 girls for an hour and a half and includes all the same perks for $275.


Two examples of the cars children can choose to sit in while getting their hair done.

Party Coordinator and stylist Karie Recio noted, “[Parents] like the space because they don’t have to do everything.  We have enough people to take care of the kids; it’s adapted for them, especially little girls.  They enjoy dressing up and being with the ladies.”

Haircuts for adults are $18, and $15 for children.  All haircuts come with a shampoo, and girls can get their nails done for no extra charge.  Children receive a balloon and a lollipop when they are done, and have the choice of sitting in a special car of their choice while being treated.

With great customer service and clientele, it looks like Sharkey’s Hair It Is is here to stay.

For more information on Sharkey’s, please visit their website or Facebook page.

Local Sharkey's manager, Mary Valdez, is very helpful and committed to her clients.

Local Sharkey’s manager, Mary Valdez, is very helpful and committed to her clients.


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MOMin- Really Works!!

Mosquito and Bug Bite Relief SAFE for the whole Family!!


Here is another great product RGV Tots-Tweens found the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas:

Living in Texas we have a mosquito and bug problem. The bugs LOVE to suck our blood. While at the ABC KIDS Expo we found this product called MOMin Outdoor Shield, Herbal Insect Bite Relief, all Organic and USDA approved product line. The owners swore left and right it WORKS. So we took some samples and here are our findings.




My mom took the samples to Brownsville, and if anyone knows the Rio Grande Valley, it is MOSQUITOVille after a rain. Being the green thumb that she is, she decided to garden one afternoon. After being bitten she came in and applied the MOMin Outdoor Shield, Herbal Insect Bite Relief.  In less than 20 minutes all the redness, itching and swelling went away. She called me right up and said “It WORKS”!
















The other sample stayed in San Antonio, Texas. My husband after mowing the grass had numerous bug bites on both ankles. First night the bites kept him up. The next day he stopped at the local pharmacy and bought some cooling spray. That evening I mentioned the MOMin Outdoor Shield, Herbal Insect Bite Relief, he tried it and had a good night sleep.  The next day he had a few bites lingering, reapplied the MOMin Outdoor Shield, Herbal Insect Bite Relief and all the bites were gone that day. The results were amazing. This product WORKS!

For more info visit and to order:


Register below for your chance to win a OutdoorShield® Organic Herbal Outdoor Repellent! 100% NATURAL and GMO FREE!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Magnificent Sprinkles- NEA

The Magnificent Sprinkles:

For over four years our son has been afraid to sleep or be alone.  He claims there are monsters and shadows in the house.  We had many talks with him and it’s all in his imagination.  As parents we know fear is just part of childhood.

This year we attended the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas.  As we began our first day we saw a booth with these colorful troll looking things called The Magnificent Sprinkles (trolls with standing hair was a common toy in my generation).  A kind lady at the booth walked up to us and explained her neat and unique product.  Her name was Vicki and she was the author and creator of The Magnificent Sprinkles.  She began to read the story to us.  Sprinkles the troll would get powers by swooshing and spinning to help kids feel safe and brave.  What an incredible concept. With a spin and a song, the Magnificent Sprinkles bring comfort and joy to you!


The Magnificent Sprinkles comes with a soft a band on its leg to for kiddos to rub, a great soothing mechanism.  Needless to say I ended up buying NEA (Never Ever Alone) for my seven year old.  One of the best investments we could have made.  We read the story together and he LOVED It.  Three weeks have gone by and every time he is scared he finds NEA and feels great.  While at school NEA protects his room!


For any parent having a child with fears, whether it’s going to the doctor, dentist, monsters in the closet or being bullied, there is The Magnificent Sprinkles to help! The Magnificent Sprinkles: Growing up Sprinkleliciously!

NOW available on Amazon!  For more information, visit or visit their Facebook page 


Just in time for the  Holidays or Just because.

Make to visit our Face Book page post for  your chance to win a Magnificent Sprinkle OR  Click on the link to Enter: Enter Here !

Happy Mom,

Lulu Hanke


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KeepSakes with Traditions!

Ifamily KC and  Tots-Tweens  attended the  ABC Kids Expo  in Las Vegas for the 2nd time!  We attended one of the largest shows for juvenile products in one place. Over 1 million square feet for back to back products and it some was AWESOME! Here are 2 great keepsake books kids and parents will enjoy

Help your kiddos with their FEARS:

Kids will always be afraid of something and why not help them cope with their fears with The Magnificent Sprinkles! Winner of the 2014 Creative Child Magazine Product of the year award and 2014  Creative Child Magazine Media award! The Sprinkles NEA, CAZI, SAM and LACI are each blessed with a special power that helps children to be brave and strong. With a spin and a song, the Magnificent Sprinkles bring comfort and joy to you! Now Available on Amazon!


For the Holiday Season:

A must for all families that LOVE tradition! Heartfelt Letters from Santa To You.  Winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards! Take milk and cookies to the next level and get feedback from the kiddos! Take a peak on what the author’s has to say Letters From Santa.



Awesome books to start a traditions and spend quality time with the kiddos! Stay Tuned for your chance to WIN one of these Keep Sakes!

Photos Credit: Heartfelt Letters From Santa To You, The Sprinkles

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Potty Training

By: Melissa Honsberger Mom Squad Member

By: Melissa Honsberger
Mom Squad Member

When my 2 year old started recognizing she was wet and uncomfortable in her diaper, I thought to myself Hallelujah!! She is ready to start potty training. I started fantasizing about never having to change a diaper ever again. We ran out pronto to buy her the pinkest, sparkling, noisiest potty we could find. We rushed home to set it up, sat her on it and within three seconds she said “All done” and wanted nothing to do with it. I wasn’t going to let that stop my dreams of being diaper free. Every day I sat with her while she sat on her potty. I read her books, I sang her songs, and she played the IPad. After countless times of sitting there for what seemed like forever she never went and five minutes after getting her diaper put back on she would go. I felt so defeated. So I looked up ways to get her interested in her potty. All these sites had the most outrageous tips and tricks to accomplish potty training and I thought to myself who has the time to do all this…Not me that’s for sure. One of the tips said to just put your foot down and take them off diapers cold turkey, so I did. I bought Gerber Training Underwear that had an extra thick layer for absorption, those failed miserably. My daughter would just pee in them, peel them off and throw them on the floor. I thought what can I do to entice her? I thought about a prize every time she went but that would get pricey. So I thought why not just a simple treat. So I went to HEB and bought a $3.00 plastic jar and a huge bag of M&Ms. I told my daughter you get 3 M&Ms for number 1 and 5 M&Ms for number 2. Low and behold she ran to her potty shimmied her Pull Up off and peed in her potty! and after said “Mommy I want my M&Ms”. The jar has slowly dwindled down and she rarely asks for them anymore but always uses the potty. Moral of the story is this whole potty training thing doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth, or laying plastic tarps all over your home, or scrubbing pee out of the couches and rugs. All it took was jar of colorful goodness.

Melissa Honsberger

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By: Melissa Hosenberger Mom Squad Member

By: Melissa Hosenberger
Mom Squad Member

So I came across a product that I found pretty cool. It’s called the Filip. It is a wrist watch for kids that double as a GPS/Mobile device.  They come in four neon colors and two sizes and are shaped kind of like a fitted bangle. The purpose of this watch is what all parents want, piece of mind and safety for your child. The Filip’s features are actually pretty awesome. The Filip acts as a mobile device, an emergency beacon and a GPS system. It holds up to 5 contacts and can also receive short text messages but cannot reply to them. So if you call your kid they basically just talk into the watch like a cool secret agent, which all the kids will love. The Filip’s GPS tracks your child using GSM cell phone towers as well as Wi-Fi Hotspots to give the most accurate indoor and outdoor locations possible .When the Filip’s emergency button is activated, it automatically sends out your child’s location, starts calling all of the contacts programmed into the device until someone answers. The whole watch is controlled by the parent through an app used on their smart phone.  I find this product really useful because nowadays we give our kids cell phones for the main purpose of being able to contact them or them contact us in case of an emergency. In a lot of cases I feel these kids are too young to really need all of the functions of a cell phone so instead why not give this Go Go Gadget watch. I myself can see me buying this for my son who is about to turn 7. He’s too young for a cell phone but at least a product like this can give me piece of mind if he is at a friend’s or if at school and there is an emergency. They are in a price range of about $200$which I think it is a fair price. You can view and purchase these cool gadgets at their website at

Melissa Hosenberger

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Spend $30 and get $10.00 back!

Join Children’s Orchard, McAllen, this weekend for a grand event!

April 11-13th , 2014!

Spend $30 and get $10 back!

For more information call Children’s Orchard At:

(956) 631 9600
5101 N. 10th St.
McAllen, TX. 78504

Sweet Deal!

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The Kidgets Club

By: Melissa Honsberger Mom Squad Member

By: Melissa Honsberger
Mom Squad Member


The La Plaza mall has this really cool kids club called “The Kidgets Club”. This club is exclusively for kids and offers year round events that are held at the La Plaza Mall or any other Simon mall for that matter. This membership is $5.00 a year per child and includes a lot of awesome perks for your kids. The Kidget Club holds a bunch of events anywhere from Pirate and Princesses to Tea with the Easter Bunny to Little Chef’s to Back to school to a Halloween Boo Bash.  Other perks to being a member is anytime you visit the La Plaza Mall your child gets a spin on the ‘Spin a Prize’ wheel as well as a birthday gift on your child’s birthday, V.I.P treatment at various mall events and free goodies at events. To register your child all you have to do is go to and click on the Kidgets Tab and it will open up a world of fun. Just fill out the form either online or print it out, complete it and take it to the La Plaza Mall and your child will get their own Kidget’s Tee Shirt and membership card.  They have all the info for upcoming events and the times the events are being held at the La Plaza mall on this same website as well. Being the parent of a kid in the Kidgets Club has its perks too, as you will get special offers from The Simon Property Group to use at your local mall. All and All I think this club is super duper cute and it gives the kids excitement to know they are in a cool (KIDS ONLY NO ADULTS ALLOWED) club. For just $5.00 a year what’s not to love. Hope to see you all there for these cool events.

Melissa Honsberger



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Tag and Sell your Kiddos Clothes


By: Etta V. Rivera Mom Squad Member

By: Etta V. Rivera
Mom Squad Member

The first day of Spring…. Started off like any other day. Waking up late to the alarm, getting the kids to school. Making my way back home with my youngest son to a list of chores to do today.  When I was a kid, the first day of Spring meant I was that much closer to getting to color , hunt and brake open that Easter Basket! Now as a Mother to 3 very active children, The first day of Spring means; planning to buy their Easter baskets soon…before they sell out of them at the stores and start SPRING CLEANING. We Mothers all do it, putting if off till the very last minute, not wanting to get rid of their baby clothes just yet. Also wanting to get the best price for their clothes. I have recently found out about “Just Between Friends” an event that will be taking place in April. Just Between Friends is a two day event where you can sell your gently used children or maternity clothes or products. They except top name brand items and there is a $12 fee for selling (which is worth it if you have a lot of good clothes or toys). I have signed up to sell and shop at this event. You can get into this event for free with a guest pass. I have just started getting all the clothes together that I be selling at Just Between Friends. My next step is to tag all the clothes and products I have. I really can’t wait for this event and I will be keeping ya’ll updated on how the tagging and proper drop off goes. I can’t wait for this event to happen…not only to make some extra cash but to see what i can find for my kids. Cause we all know they grow so fast! So just a reminder ladies and men don’t wait the last minute to clean out those closets.

just between friends feb 2014 (2)


Etta V. Rivera

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