Sensory toys are invaluable for children with learning difficulties or complex needs – but two-thirds of parents feel these are more expensive than “normal” toys
Nearly eight in ten parents raising seriously ill and disabled children are worried they won’t be able to afford Christmas presents this year.
The festive period is such a magical time for children – but a study has found families raising disabled children will struggle to make their Christmas wishes come true.
More than two-thirds of the 978 families polled feel gifts for their disabled children are more expensive than things non-disabled children would like.
Sensory toys, which are invaluable to children who have autism or learning disabilities, emerged among the most expensive gifts that parents worry they won’t be able to afford – as well as bikes and outdoor play equipment which often have to be adapted to meet a particular child’s needs.
As a result, eight in ten end up spending more money on their disabled children.
The research was commissioned by Family Fund, a national charity providing grants to support disabled children whose families are living on lower incomes.
Cheryl Ward, CEO of Family Fund, said: “This research shows many families won’t be able to afford the cost of Christmas this year.
“And many families raising disabled children will struggle to afford the sensory toys that their children need, due to the extra costs of the “disability price tag”.
“Sensory toys, which have features like light and texture, are stimulating and appealing for disabled children – but they’re significantly more expensive than other toys, costing many families over £250 per item.
“Given the fact it’s already around three times more expensive to raise a disabled child compared with other children, we’re concerned that families on low incomes, whose children have complex needs, may miss out.”
The study also found families are cutting down on other necessities so they can afford presents for their disabled children.
These include spending less on weekly groceries (51 percent), cutting down on central heating (49 percent), and working longer hours (12 percent).
As many as 92 percent of those polled will also, along with other adults within their household, sacrifice their own gifts to help afford presents for their disabled children.
It also emerged that 83 percent of parents find Christmas shopping for their disabled children stressful.
Having the money to cover the cost of specialist gifts is the thing families are most worried about having to afford this year – above the rise in utility bills, and presents for other friends and family.
Nearly half will have to borrow an average of £390 to help them cover the additional costs that Christmas brings.
While one in ten expect to borrow twice as much – an anticipated £800 more.
More than a third will use credit cards, with a fifth taking out personal loans and a quarter eating into an overdraft on their bank account.
The Marks are a family of five from Exeter, Devon, who have three children with complex additional needs.
Archie, who is five, and Chiara, who is three, are both autistic and non-verbal.
Their younger brother Sebastian, aged 20 months, has developmental delays which also suggest autism, and is awaiting a medical diagnosis.
Mum Becci said: “You want to be able to give your kids everything that they need and want, especially at Christmas, but it’s not always possible.
“They don’t really play with “normal” toys at all, and the sensory ones are much more expensive.
“There have been times we’ve struggled to put food on the table, never mind afford luxuries like presents.
“It can be upsetting, stressful and lonely to face this. I’ve often been left in tears at Christmas.
“Family Fund gave us funding for sensory toys earlier this year, but children with additional needs often “use” toys in a way that means they don’t last very long.
“Disability just creates so many extra costs, extra nappies, extra washing, two loads of clothing and bedsheets every day.
“Sadly, making Christmas special, with very little money to spend, can be difficult.”
This Christmas Family Fund is asking people to support families in urgent need, like Becci’s, by texting FAMILYFUND 5 to 70460 to donate. Visit here to find out more.