Summer therapy toys for kids with disabilities

June 22, 2008 2:43:59 PM PDT
There are a number of toys that can help children with different disabilities increase their developmental skills. The key is finding the right toys, but with some help it can be done easily. Now that school is out, playtime can be therapy time. Lekotek knows what toys are best for every child. At Lekotek's headquarters on Chicago's North Side, you feel like you are in a big playroom.

Two-and-a-half-year-old William Horsnail enjoys being at Lekotek.

"He enjoys some of the bigger, brighter toys that are easy for him to push," said Joanna, William's mom.

William has cerebral palsy. His mom says he is a sweet kid.

"Just so happy, smiling, laughing all the time," Joanna said, "but very, very developmentally delayed, developmentally delayed both cognitively and physically in all areas of his motor skills."

The Horsnail came to Lekotek for help finding the right toys. Kerry Bauer, the family play specialist, works with them.

"She brings out a group of toys that are appropriate for what we're working on, and then we spend the play session really experimenting with the toys to what triggers reaction in William, what gets him to do the action that we're working on in therapy," said Joanna.

Three-year-old John Paul Ott also has cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. His mom says he just loves to play.

"Computer games, the water game, he loves to play with water," said John Paul's mother. "He is happy with the toys that he is able to play, and there is a lot of toys that he is not able to play, because he doesn't have a good balance and a good coordination, so he struggles with that."

Play and toys are so important for children's development.

"Children learn through play, and especially since children have those special needs, there's certain setbacks when they need to be taught how to play sometimes, especially like children with physical impairments who don't have that ability to actually engage in a toy they need to almost be retaught certain abilities," Bauer said.

Even though both boys have similar physical disabilities, they benefit from different toys.

"William needs a lot of working on just easy fine motor, easy cause and effect. Right now he's working on problem solving, working on toys, you know, figuring out different solutions for how to actually activate toys," said Bauer. "Since John Paul is mobile, he definitely is walking, so things that encourage him to keep working on his balance."

A year after coming to Lekotek, William's mom has seen great improvement.

"He had very weak muscle tone," she said, "so that he couldn't sit up independently, and now as you've seen today, he sitting up independently, reaching for toys reaching for us.".

Lekotek says that play should always be fun and easy as well as a learning experience.

For more information on Lekotek go to their website at www.lekotek.org or call (773) 528-5766.

National Lekotek Center
2001 N. Clybourn
Chicago, IL 60614


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