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Finding things to keep children entertained during the long summer holidays can be difficult for any parent – but for those whose youngsters have a disability it is a particular challenge.

Mum of two Kathryn Broadberry from St Helens knows this only too well.

Sons Harry, aged five, and Jack, two, have both been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum.

The family are being supported by leading UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation, which provides a specialist Play Therapy Pod service offering three-month loans of sensory toys for children with complex needs.

Kathryn said: “I didn’t know how to meet the boys’ sensory needs at home, so a portage worker at The Bridge Centre in St Helens advised me to contact Newlife Foundation. We now currently have a ‘cause and effect’ Play Therapy Pod specifically for Jack, with specialist toys that he loves to play with.

“Sensory toys can be very expensive and until you try them you don’t know whether they will be suitable for your child’s particular needs.

“It was like Christmas had come early when the Pod arrived – I have been really impressed with the quality and suitability of the contents – and although Jack is enjoying all of the toys there are one or two that are his favourites, giving us an idea of what best to buy ourselves.

“Because of their condition, Jack and Harry usually play independently; however, Jack has wanted to share these toys with myself and my husband which has given us an opportunity to play together. We have also found that these toys can be used to calm Jack when he is agitated, stopping tantrums.”

With support from Children In Need, Newlife Foundation is expanding its Play Therapy Pod service and currently has over 200 in circulation around the country – with several across the Merseyside area. Newlife play specialist Lucie Mallen said: “Fun specialist toys really do make a difference to the way children interact with each other, their families and the world around them.”

Each pod contains around £400 of sensory and developmental toys; they are available on three-month loans and delivered direct to families’ homes. Play Therapy Pods fall into two age categories – under and over-fives – with targeted equipment for tactile, visual, interactive and auditory needs in each age group. They come with interaction ideas to give families guidance on how to use the equipment as part of interactive play and developmental programmes.

Through the Newlife Nurse Helpline – freephone 0800 902 0095 – the charity offers a range of practical support services to families of disabled and terminally ill children across the UK. For more details go to

Pictured: Jack Broadberry.

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