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A Newry mum who says “more needs to be done to support early year’s disabled children,” has been amazed at the difference specialist toys have made to her three-year-old daughter.

Patrycja Teszbir’s daughter Abigail Marshall, has a rare genetic disorder that affects her development – she is unable to walk or speak and her hearing and sight are impaired. Patrycja had tried to encourage her daughter to play but nothing would catch her interest. Now, thanks to the loan of a Play Therapy Pod from Newlife, the Charity for Disabled Children, Abigail has been able to play with her baby sister for the first time.

Patrycja said; “Children learn so much through play and we had tried everything to encourage her. We had bought her high street toys and we even bought her specialist toys ourselves but she just wasn’t interested in them.”

On hearing about Newlife’s Play Therapy Pod service, Patrycja contacted the charity to find out more.

“The Pods were loaned to us for free and were delivered and collected, free of charge, to suit us. I was absolutely amazed at how well Abigail responded to the toys. Because her vision is impaired she was really drawn to anything black and white. She particularly loved a basket of black and white animals and she took it with her everywhere she went.

“The most wonderful thing for me was seeing Abigail playing with her sister, Emilia, who is two-years-old. They have never played together before so it was truly remarkable to watch.”

The Play Therapy Pods give families a unique opportunity to ‘try before they buy’ – something that it is incredibly beneficial when a child is unable to tell their parents what they do and don’t like.

“Having this service available to us has helped us enormously,” Patrycja said. “The majority of help and support for disabled children seems to come when they start school, but these early, formative years are so important too – and it is through play that children learn so much. Without Newlife, Abigail wouldn’t have had that opportunity to play.”

Newlife’s Play Therapy Pods are categorised by age and sensory need. To find out more, visit the website at where you can also download an application form.