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Specialist toys are helping mum Lorraine Griffin interact and play with her two young sons, both of whom are on the autistic spectrum.

Three-year-old Benjamin Griffin and his four-year-old brother Samuel, from the Saltwells area of Dudley, play in their own little world and Lorraine has struggled to connect with them – until the arrival of their first Play Therapy Pod from local charity Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children.

Newlife, which is based in Cannock, is the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness. It has helped 1,199 under-19s in the West Midlands alone, with equipment totalling £1,274,468.

As well as equipment grants and emergency equipment loans, Newlife offers loans of specialist toys through its Play Therapy Pod service. Each ‘pod’ contains around £400 of toys which are designed to stimulate and encourage children as well as helping them to be distracted from pain through play.

The toys range from light projectors and fibre optics to textured cushions and musical instruments – things that are seemingly very simple but can make a huge difference to a disabled child.

Lorraine said: “The pods are brilliant – these toys are the sort of things that are usually only available at play centres and nurseries. They get me engaging with the boys through toys we just couldn’t afford to buy. It can be very difficult to know how to interact with children with autism but each pod comes with helpful tips on how to use the toys to stimulate the boys’ interest and development.

“We are on our second pod at the moment and they give us an opportunity to ‘try before we buy’ so we can save up for special gifts at Christmas and for birthdays.”

Play Therapy Pods are available on a 12-16 week loan period, free of charge. They fall into several age categories – birth to 18 months, 18 months to three years, three to five years and five to 18 years. Application forms for Play Therapy Pods are available online by going to Further information about Play Therapy Pods is available from the charity’s Care Services Team on 0800 902 0095 (free from UK landlines and mobiles).

To find out more about how Newlife supports families of disabled and terminally ill children in the West Midlands, go to: