WHEATON – The therapists at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton made sure their pediatric patients with disabilities had as much fun playing with their toys this Christmas as their able-bodied peers.
The hospital adapted toys for its pediatric patients with disabilities as part of its Adapt-A-Toy program. The Marianjoy Foundation sponsored all the toys being adapted this year.
“For our kids, they have different kinds of challenges,” Marianjoy speech language pathologist Jaime Mieszala said. “A lot of them have motor challenges.”
The hospital sees kids with a variety of conditions, including cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury and autism spectrum disorders. The therapists adapted the toys so their pediatric patients could play with them. For example, they replaced a button on a Katerina Kittycat toy with a switch.
“Instead of pushing the button on its hand, you push the switch,” Mieszala said in demonstrating how it works. “If they have motor ability to do a slight little movement, they can now control it and play. We take advantage of any movement they have.”
During an Adapt-A-Toy event in November, 10 families were helped. This was the second year of the event.
To fund the event, the Marianjoy Foundation reached out to donors, asking for them to sponsor a family for $100. That included the cost of switches and other electronics, a new modified toy for each child and modification of toys that families bring from home.
“Some kids came and they tried out their toys right on the spot,” Mieszala said. “It was super awesome to see them kind of learn that their movements could control something. That was really fun, to see their faces kind of light up when they got to have that independence to do some of that with fun toys.”
Fellow Marianjoy speech language pathologist Elizabeth Witt said the adapted toys have provided many benefits for the children.
“Before, someone always had to play for them,” she said. “This is the first time they are actually able to activate a toy themselves. We had a child who did our Adapt-A-Toy event and from that event he learned the cause and effect relationship like ‘if I touch this, something happens, and I like it.’ From there, he was able to develop further in his therapy goals with the therapists.”
In addition, the adapted toys allow kids with disabilities to play with their able-bodied siblings.
“There were unintended, but positive consequences,” Witt said.