Adapted toys a godsend for kids with special needs

Adapted toys a godsend for kids with special needs

Toys that quiver. Toys that light up and sing. Toys that spit out bubbles. And all of them adapted for children with special needs.

The sight was almost too good to be true for parents who arrived recently at a University of Rochester Medical Center clinic with children who are limited in their ability to reach for a toy or activate one because of cerebral palsy or other disorders.

“This is awesome,” said Shaneishka Rivera, who placed a succession of toys in front of her daughter, Jeneishka, before choosing a Tickle Me Elmo to take home with them.

The toys, many of them donated by Mattel, were adapted with special switches by Toys for All Tots, a University of Rochester student project.

“We know that play is how children learn and that toys are crucial for children in development,” said Hannah Peck, a  pediatric occupational therapist at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “This is giving these children the ability to use a toy to its full potential.”

Adapted toys are expensive and hard to find. A goal of the project is to eventually adapt enough toys to stock a library, where families can check out toys, trying them to see which best meet the special needs of their children, then return them when their children outgrow them or are ready to try a different one.

In the meantime, Ashley Carl was able to return home to Almond, New York, with a Dance and Move BeatBowWow toy after seeing how it caught the eye of her son, Chasyn.

“The fact that you have college kids caring enough to do things like this is really awesome,” she said. “It makes it more inclusive for kids like Chase. When the other kids are playing with toys at school, he can play too.”

Bob Marcotte, January 2018

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