As the UK marks National Playday this month, a disabled children’s charity is celebrating seven successful years of their free Play Therapy Pod service, which enables children with disabilities and terminal illness to loan pods of specialist toys so they can also benefit from the power of play.
Thousands of children, young people and their families will come together to celebrate the importance of play on August 4th through National Playday, but as many traditional high street toys aren’t suitable for children with disabilities, it can be difficult – and expensive – for families to choose the right toys.
To prevent disabled and terminally ill children from missing out on the benefits of play, Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children launched their hugely successful Play Therapy Pod service seven years ago, with a range of different pods to suit different needs, and with various themes to appeal to all children.
One child to benefit from the service from Newlife is three-year-old Alexander Munneke-Corbett from London, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy with respiratory distress. This is a rare genetic condition, which affects less than one million children worldwide. This means he needs to be ventilated 24 hours a day through a tracheostomy and also, sadly, is a terminal condition.
Alexander can’t stand, speak or move his hands or feet, so he needs constant care and support. It also means that he requires specialist toys to play with to suit his needs.
Without the Play Therapy Pod service, Alexander’s family found it tough to find suitable toys that would engage him sufficiently. Toys were either expensive, or they’d buy them and find that Alexander wasn’t able to use them, or find them worthwhile.
But thanks to Newlife, Alexander was able to have a loan of specialist toys suited to his sensory needs in the Animal Adventure pod. This allowed the family to see which toys are suited to Alexander without having to purchase each item individually. Mum Jennifer said: “The Play Therapy Pod is great, as it allowed us to discover options that we simply didn’t know existed, whilst also saving us both time and money searching and buying specialist toys for Lex.
“Seeing Lex engage with the toys, and seeing him laugh and smile whilst playing with them was great. The Play Therapy Pod has opened up so many communication possibilities that simply wouldn’t be there before it was loaned to us by Newlife. “He had a favourite toy from the pod which we have now bought for him and he loves it so much that he sleeps with it every night. We are so happy to have found toys that he enjoys and that he can play with to meet his needs. We couldn’t have done it without the Play Therapy Pod, and we couldn’t be more thankful.”
Each Play Therapy Pod is loaned for a period of around 12 weeks, before they are collected, deep cleaned and refurbished before being sent out to help another child.
Carrick Brown, Head of Child and Family Support said: “Play can help improve the way a child communicates either through speech, sign or in other ways, reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improving gross and fine motor skills, coordination, motion and balance.
“Newlife understands this, which is why they provide the Play Therapy Pod service which has been developed by experts to provide disabled and terminally ill children with toys that will fit their needs and requirements. “At Newlife, we believe that every single child should have the opportunity to explore and develop their own skills and understanding in order to be the best they can be, and we think that play is a vital part of that. Therefore we are delighted to have our Play Therapy Pods as one of the many things we do to support disabled children and their families right across the UK.”