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A Nottingham teenager with severe autism and learning difficulties has been able to enjoy spending time with his two younger sisters as he plays with the specialist toys in a Play Therapy Pod, loaned to the family by Newlife Foundation, the UK’s leading children’s disability charity.

Billy Torr, aged 13, also has chronic kidney disease and is in renal failure for which he receives dialysis, but this often makes him too exhausted to want to play. He also has difficulty with motor skills and his sensory issues mean he can be overwhelmed by loud noises, so he finds play centres difficult, but finding toys he will engage with at home in Kirkby in Ashfield has been a struggle for his mum, Sarah and stepdad Brian Martin, due to their high cost.

When the family heard about Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness, they decided to apply for the loan of a Play Therapy Pod which allows children to play with a selection of specialist toys and try them out to see which they respond to. This often helps families feel more confident before they decide to buy a toy for a special occasion as they already know it’s something their child will respond to.

The free service provides a pod filled with around £400 of specialist toys for the family to use for between 12 and 16 weeks. There a variety of categories to choose from, depending on the child’s physical and learning age, abilities and medical needs – so every child has the chance to play. The right toys can aid the development of important physical skills, boost attention span, understanding of cause and effect and response to sounds and hand / eye co-ordination, as well as fine motor skills – all of which can also lead to a child’s confidence growing.

Specialist toys can also distract a child when they are in pain and comfort them in many situation, including when they are waiting for appointments at hospital, during therapy or travelling.

Brian said: “Billy has had virtually every conceivable toy available – but it’s always whether he will engage with it or not. He has received a five plus Interactive pod from Newlife and the specialist toys in it are right up his street, especially the pillow which light’s up and changes colour.

“When Billy plays he is happy, and if he is happy it means he’s not stressed or having a ‘meltdown’ which will also cause him to bite his hands, which is very distressing for everyone.

“The toys from the Play Therapy Pod have also helped him to play with his sisters, Summer and Lexi aged eight and aged two. The pod has a giant mat which makes sounds when you move on it, so as soon as the weather warms up we can put that in the garden for Billy to play on as he gets so frustrated stuck in the house.”

Brian added: “We will definitely be applying for more Play Therapy Pods. Although we have bought him the specialist toys we can, many of them are so expensive they are just of our reach, so it’s ideal to be able to try them out before we decide to buy them – especially as whether he will engage with them can be so hit and miss.”

In Nottinghamshire right now there are another 14 children with disabilities and terminal illness in the county with equipment needs totalling £11,115. If you think you could help, go to the website and click on the Donate button. Alternatively contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444. Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of the money donated to the Nottinghamshire fund will help provide specialist equipment for children in the county.

If you would like to fundraise for Newlife in the Nottinghamshire area visit for some inspiration or call Nottinghamshire Fundraising and Awareness Manager David Reeves on 07854425273.

Pictured: Billy Torr