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A boxful of specialist sensory toys is helping little Isaac O’Connor, from Allerton, develop his play skills and join in more family fun.

Isaac, who will be two in March, has the rare genetic condition Coffin-Lowry Syndrome. As a result he has developmental delay and learning difficulties.

With specialist toys being more expensive and harder to access than standard baby and toddler play equipment, Isaac’s mum Kate Fenneberg contacted Newlife, the Charity for Disabled Children, for help.

Newlife is the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness, and has supported 605 children across Merseyside.

Kate is a Special Educational Needs and disability link worker so knew all about Newlife and its range of support services; the charity also provided Isaac with a specialist car seat last year. Earlier this month (January), Newlife delivered a Play Therapy Pod full of toys targeted at Isaac’s needs.

This is Newlife’s 3,000th Play Therapy Pod loan. The toy service was launched as a trial with just a handful of pods – and there are now almost 400 in circulation around the UK. Each pod contains around £400 of sensory toys and is couriered to and from families’ homes for 12 to 16-week loans.

Kate said: “The toys came in a big crate and Isaac loves putting things in and taking things out of boxes so it was a hit from the start. We are gradually introducing him to the different items in the pod – and the ‘Tranquil Turtle’ has been an instant success.”

The turtle toy projects an underwater effect on the ceiling and plays soothing music and sounds of ocean waves.

Kate added: “Isaac and his three-year-old brother both love the turtle so we all have a bit of a wind-down together at the end of the day. With specialist toys being so expensive it’s good to be able to ‘try before you buy’ and I think I will end up buying one of the turtles.

“Isaac has only just started sitting up and can now play with his toys on the floor. Other toys in the pod are helping him develop new skills and interact with his brother.”

Specialist toys are designed to stimulate the senses as well as helping children be comforted and distracted from pain through play. As well as benefitting children’s development, there is a vital emotional aspect to playing; it is in these moments that barriers are broken, bonds are forged and relationships are strengthened.

Play Therapy Pod loans – suitable for all ages, from babies to teenagers – are just one of Newlife’s range of practical support services, accessed via its national Nurse Helpline – 0800 902 0095 (free from UK mobiles and landlines). Equipment Grants provide permanent provision of specialist aids; Emergency Equipment Loans offer a quick response for terminally ill and life-limited children and those at risk through unsafe sleeping environments; Comfort Capsules enable families of terminally ill children to make memories together.

To find out more about how Newlife supports families across Merseyside, go to: The website includes information about how you can help children in your area. Alternatively, contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444, email

Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of monies donated or fundraised in the Merseyside area will be used to specifically help local children with disabilities and terminal illness.

Pictured: Isaac playing with some of the toys from the Play Therapy Pod.