This week little Avyukt Acharya from Nottingham is helping Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children celebrate the success of its sensory play service.
Four-year-old Avyukt, who is known as Avy, is enjoying Newlife’s 1,000th Play Therapy Pod loan since the service was launched as a pilot project three years ago.
Newlife started loaning out boxes full of specialist sensory toys in response to queries from families of disabled and terminally ill children – and kicked off with just four ‘pods’. Now Newlife has more than 320 in circulation around the UK.
These complement the charity’s Equipment Grant service – 1,303 Equipment Grants totalling £2,088,105 awarded in the UK in 2013/14 alone – and its emergency equipment loan service, called Just Can’t Wait, for terminally ill and life-limited children; this aims to get vital support to families’ homes within 72 hours.
Avy’s mum Chitra Acharya said: “This is our second Play Therapy Pod loan – and Avy loves them. The pods contain lots of toys carefully chosen for children’s individual needs and this means Avy responds really well to them. The health professionals who work with us at home have been very impressed with the range of specialist sensory toys.
“It means we can purchase for ourselves the toys that Avy likes and not waste our money buying things that are not suitable. Specialist toys like these are very expensive and we just can’t afford to get something not knowing whether he will like it.
“The pods give us more opportunities to play with Avy. Now he is making eye contact with me when we are playing because he really enjoys what he is doing . . . we are slowly progressing.”
Avy, who lives in the Basford area of the city, was born prematurely and has a complex condition including Cerebral Palsy, Short Bowel Syndrome and partial hearing loss. He spent the first 16 months of his life in hospital and is reliant on his family for all his care needs.
Chitra added: “I contacted Newlife because I was interested in the Play Therapy Pods, but while I was speaking to one of the charity’s nurses on the phone she told me about Equipment Grants – and as a result we now have a specialist car seat for Avy as well.”
Newlife’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.
For further information, call the Newlife Nurse Helpline – freephone 0800 902 0095 – or go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk