Of the millions of toys that will be rung up, wrapped up and given to children this holiday season, very few are made with kids like little Abigail Anderson in mind. As a baby, Abigail suffered seizures which left her developmentally delayed and unable to play with the toys built for other four-year-olds.
“She needs toys that are well-suited for her,” says Abigail’s mom Rebecca. “They need to react a certain way and be easy for her to manipulate to teach her a lot of cause and effect.”
Abigail and other special needs children often need toys that require simple modifications, for example replacing a small, dangerous on/off switch with a large one that can be found and operated easily. But toys with the proper modifications are almost impossible to find, which is why Abigail comes to the Toy and Technology Library at Ohio State University Medical Center, one of only a handful of libraries of its kind in the country. Here, kids like Abigail can find toys that are just right for them.
“Most of the switch-activated items aren’t available locally and because they have to be specially ordered, they’re quite costly,” says Mary Jo Wendling, a specialist at the toy library.
For example, a typical toy in a store might only cost $10 but a specialty toy, modified for special needs kids, is nearly $50. But at Ohio State’s toy library, they’re free. Just like books at a library, families here can check out toys and even specialized computers to take home and try out, something that families like the Andersons can appreciate.
“This gives them an opportunity to make sure their child enjoys and can use a toy before they purchase it, which can save them a lot of money in the long run,” says Marc Tassé, director of Ohio State University Medical Center’s Nisonger Center where the toy library is housed.
Best of all, children choose their toys under the watchful eye of a therapist who not only finds toys they’ll enjoy but will learn from, which means both kids and parents always leave happy.