A national disabled children’s charity has launched a Christmas appeal to help more children with disabilities and terminal illnesses access play therapy equipment, such as switch-adapted and specially designed toys to help children to experience the joy of play for themselves.

Newlife’s Give the Gift of Play campaign hopes to raise funds to help disabled and terminally ill children that often have difficulty using standard high street toys this Christmas.

The charity provides Play Therapy Pods on loan for 12 weeks, there are a variety of toys available in a variety of pods to suit different ages and developmental needs. The charity says the pods are vital to help children develop key skills, distract them any from pain they might be experiencing and help the whole family bond.

Newlife says that since families with disabled children are often unsure which toys will be of most benefit, the pods can also help families discover which specialist toys their child responds to, which is particularly important with the cost of living spiralling, as specialist toys can be expensive.

Over the last ten years, Newlife has distributed over 9,000 Play Therapy Pods to disabled and terminally ill children all across the UK.  As each pod costs £400 – £500, there is often a waiting list, which is why Newlife has launched its Christmas campaign to help fund more pods, to enable more children to receive interactive therapy equipment throughout the holidays.

Sally Insley, Head of Public Fundraising, said: “The toys in our Play Therapy Pods can be just as life changing as the disability equipment we provide for children through grants and loans.

“Finding the right toys for a child to respond to can lead to developmental leaps, children reaching out for the first time, saying their first words and even playing with siblings for the first time, creating magical memories many families never thought it would happen.

“We urgently need more pods so we can help more children and more families know that joy this Christmas.”

One example of a family who reached out for help from Newlife is Gabriella, from Telford in Shropshire.

Gabriella, aged two, was born with achondroplasia, often known as dwarfism. Gabriella has poor core and little neck control, so she can only hold her head up for short periods of time, which made playing difficult until she received the right specialist toys.

For the first 12 months of her life, Gabriella had to lay flat on her back as she was unable to sit up by herself and had a curve in her spine. Thanks to toys in Play Therapy Pods, Gabriella has been able to sit up properly by herself for the first time and play with her older brothers, Ben, Alex, and Samuel.

Equipment such as a flat car seat and buggy have helped with Gabriella’s health, development and quality of life, as Gabriella no longer has to feel bored and frustrated, lying flat on the floor, in need of toys to distract her.

Mum, Laura, and dad, Ian, were not sure which toys would best meet Gabriella’s needs, as she finds it difficult to reach for toys and to hold and grasp objects. They have now tried three of Newlife’s Play Therapy Pods – Sensory Play, Animal Adventure, and Multi-Sensory Play –  to discover which sensory toys work best for Gabriella.

Laura said: “We are loving trying out all the different toys. The sensory and interactive toys have really helped stimulate her interest in playing. She loved the toys that move and make a noise, such as the lizard in the animal pod which lit up. This encouraged her to reach out and grab the toys, which has improved her core muscles and stability.

“We have seen progress in her development since having the pods too, as she has been able to match animals with what sound they make. Now that she can sit up by herself, the most recent pod has toys which are appropriate for her to sit and play with.

“We will definitely be trying out as many pods as we can, as Gabriella loves them, and it has such a positive benefit for her.”

To find out more about Newlife’s Play Therapy Pod service, or to donate, visit the Newlife website.

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