Toy store gives special needs kids a place to play, and grow

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CHICAGO -- It may look like your ordinary toy store filled with trains, puzzles, books, and games, but at Spectrum Toy Store each has a specified purpose: to teach and expand the minds and bodies of kids on the autism spectrum.

Jamilah Rahim opened the store this year in the Lakeview neighborhood after a decade working with special needs kids and watching parents struggle to find useful toys their kids would actually use. Items there target gross motor, fine motor, social skills, life skills, communication and sensory development.

"We have things helping children learning life skills and play skills, but we feel like its most important to support the development of that child," Rahim said

Assistance in that development is also available in the form of day programs and camps run by Children's Advanced Recreation and Education, a nonprofit specializing in children with disabilities from three to 13. Lessons are offered on a daily, weekly, or as needed basis, often including transportation to and from schools. There's even a winter camp coming up Dec. 26 – Jan. 6.

It's all about getting kids the help they need – and the toys that will get them there – at an early age.