A specialist ‘box of tricks’ has acted as a catalyst in the development of autistic two-year-old Frank Harvey, from Chester. His parents are delighted with the difference the sensory toys have made in encouraging their son to talk.
The Play Therapy Pod full of specialist toys was provided by leading UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation. Frank’s mum Sara Harvey was introduced to Newlife by the family of another autistic child whom she was photographing for her ‘Admiring Autism’ awareness project which has been featured by BBC News.
Sara said: “I was quite pessimistic before we got the Play Therapy Pod because we had tried all sorts of puzzles and toys in the past but Frank wasn’t interested – he really didn’t get it!
“It’s obvious that a lot of thought and expertise has gone into putting the pods together, because Frank latched on to particular toys and loves them.
“He especially likes a shapes puzzle; within about five days he was echoing parts of the words. Now, he can almost say ‘circle’ and’ triangle’. And he has transferred that love of shapes on to other things.
“We are delighted that he is now able to put the puzzles together himself – with difficulty, but the fact that he is doing it at all is what matters.
“For us, it is another tool to use to be able to interact with Frank. Previously, he didn’t want us to play with his toys with him – now, because of the puzzles, he wants us to help.”
Sara added: “I have videos of Frank laughing his head off, copying the words of another of the toys, Ritchie the Repeating Rabbit. Playing with this toy is helping his partial speech sounds.
“Having use of a Play Therapy Pod from Newlife has been very beneficial for Frank. And for us as parents too because it is really expensive to buy specialist sensory toys – and there is always the chance that if he hasn’t tried them first Frank won’t like or want to use them. The great thing about the pod is the ability to try different toys.”
The charity’s play specialist Lucie Mallen said: “Fun specialist toys really do make a difference to the way children interact with each other, their families and the world around them.”
Each pod contains around £400 of sensory and developmental toys; they are available on three-month loans and delivered direct to families’ homes. Play Therapy Pods fall into two age categories – under and over-fives – with targeted equipment for tactile, visual, interactive and auditory needs in each age group. They come with interaction ideas to give families guidance on how to use the equipment as part of interactive play and developmental programmes.
Through the Newlife Nurse Helpline – freephone 0800 902 0095 – the charity offers a range of practical support services to families of disabled and terminally ill children across the UK, including Equipment Grants ( and emergency equipment loans for terminally ill and life-limited children. For more details go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk
For more information about the Admiring Autism project, go to: www.admiringautism.co.uk
Pictured: Frank Harvey