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Rugeley brothers who have the same incredibly rare neurological condition which means their life expectancy is just ten-years-old, have been able to play together and make memories for their family to treasure, thanks to the Play Therapy Pod service run by Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children – which recently celebrated sending out free loans of the pods to the value of £250,000.
Both three-year-old Oscar Webber and his seven-month-old brother, Theo, have a condition which only affects one in 900,000 people in the UK called Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease – part of a group of rare, progressive, genetic diseases called Leukodystrophy. As well as affecting their brain and spinal cord it tragically means both can lose their ability to walk, sit, crawl, and will eventually deteriorate, losing all the skills they have learned before they sadly pass away.
To make the most of their short lives, worried parents, Cortney and Stuart desperately wanted to find a way to help Oscar and Theo to improve their mobility, learn new skills and, most importantly, create lasting memories and special bonds, as a family – so turned to Newlife’s Play Therapy Pods service for help.
The innovative service has a wide range of Play Therapy Pods available to suit different ages and developmental needs – and each one is packed with a variety of specialist toys. Now, thanks to the contents of the Discovering Interaction pod, Oscar is able to develop his motor skills and reach developmental milestones – while Theo happily engages in watching his big brother while using the Sensory Play pod to stimulate all his senses.
The Play Therapy Pods Oscar and Theo received are just two of the pods which have helped disabled and terminally ill children across the UK recently – with 1,300 sent to children in 2020 alone. Families report the specialist toys improved relationships, gave them a better understanding of their child’s needs and helping them enjoy quality time as a family through play.
Oscar has reduced eyesight and, can’t walk unaided, has regular physiotherapy to help increase his muscle tone, reduce stiffness as well as to learn to stand and reach for toys to promote his balance and stability. At home, standard toys didn’t keep his interest as he struggled to use or even reach for them – they just weren’t stimulating enough for him. Often, he would sit and lose interest in toys very easily. But mum Cortney says she is ‘thrilled’ with how much the toys from the Play Therapy Pod service have helped.
She said: “It is so much more than just a box of toys. It has given us the chance to make lasting memories as a family. Oscar was so excited when it arrived. The bubble machine is one of his favourite toys. He reaches up on his legs to pop the bubbles – something he wouldn’t do with toys before. Even his physiotherapist has noticed how much it has helped his core strength.
“The toys have also brought the whole family closer together. Now, whilst Oscar plays with the sensory skittles, brother, Theo, joins in by watching the lights and taking in the noises.
“It’s lovely to see the two of them playing together and building special bonds whilst exploring these amazing sensory toys. The Play Therapy Pod is incredible. There are things in there you wouldn’t think of buying. I just want to say a big Thank You to Newlife for providing these toys – they have helped Oscar and Theo tremendously and we all have memories to treasure.”
Newlife’s Play Therapy Pod Service provides free loans of specialist toys to families with disabled and terminally ill children for up to 12 weeks. There are four different ranges of pods available with different themes to try within them for families to choose from. Each one has been specifically designed by play therapists to aid children’s development and encourage families to play together.
Newlife’s Child and Family Support Manger, Kimberly Stuart, said: “While the service is free to families, there is of course a cost to running it, but the £250,000 milestone shows us just how popular the service has become.
“Specialist toys can be very expensive and it can become quite expensive if you aren’t certain what your child will respond to. With the Play Therapy Pod service families have the opportunity to explore their child’s needs and develop their skills, whilst also spending time as a family, without worrying about the cost.”
To find out more about Newlife’s Play Therapy Pod service visit or call Newlife’s Child and Family Support Team on 0800 902 0095.