The importance of adapted toys: helping children with disabilities play

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 7:05 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Christmas is coming soon, and finding the perfect gift for the children in your life can be challenging as is, but for children with disabilities, finding toys they can play with can be both difficult and expensive.

All children, whether they have physical or speech impairments or not, have a desire to learn and play independently.

“Children love to be independent, it’s how they gain confidence. Kids go through the phase where they want to do it themselves, and these kids that might have some physical disabilities are not any different,” said Janna Marie Towers, a speech pathologist at the Anne Carlsen Center.

Engineering students at the University of Mary volunteered to adapt toys for children with disabilities, and their reasons for doing so are personal. Dawson Blakeslee’s younger brother grew up going to physical and speech therapy.

“Occupational therapy and speech therapy have helped him to grow, and I thought it was interesting to see another way to maybe help kids similar to my brother,” said Blakeslee.

Sophia Muttonen was hospitalized as a child and spent time watching other children struggle to play.

“Being able to give back is something that I really want to do and this is one way of doing that, to give back to the kids,” said Muttonen.

And Isaac Schmidt is a personal care assistant to a young boy with disabilities.

“I didn’t even know it was an option, so when I first heard about it, and the volunteer opportunity, I immediately thought of him and thought he would love something like this,” said Schmidt.

While many children with disabilities may go to centers like Anne Carlsen to learn and play with experienced therapists, they also need to play at home. Parents who need toys adapted are encouraged to drop them off for the engineering students to work on.

“Kids need to play everywhere, you don’t want them to just play in one location, they need to be a kid everywhere that they go. For them to be able to access different toys at their house is just so important,” said Towers.

Many parents may not have the funds to purchase adaptive toys or may not even know those options exist. The work University of Mary students put into creating and adapting these toys helps make finding toys for all children a bit easier.

Adapt-a-thon runs from December 1 through December 8 at the University of Mary Hamm School of Engineering.

The student volunteers are still looking for kids they can help, and they encourage parents to bring in toys that need to be adapted.