Getting the right Christmas toy for any child can be tricky. But for the parents of children with disabilities it can be extra challenging. It is not always certain that a disabled child will have the motor skills to manage the toy they have set their heart on, or be able to use it to its full potential.
Help, however, is at hand. That help comes in the form of a company called the Medical Engineering Resource Unit, or MERU for short.
MERU can adapt and modify existing toys so that a disabled child can use them. Whether it is the installation of an extra large operating button or a bigger switch, or a custom designed modification to suit a particular child’s needs, MERU will do their best to oblige. The toy can be sent off to the Company’s headquarters in Surrey, and the only cost will be for the parts required – there is no charge for the service.
Alistair Pulling, MERU’s media manager, said, “Young children start to learn how the world works through play – especially cause and effect – and this is an important part of development.
“A lot of early years’ toys involve squeezing the toy and it making a noise, or pushing a button and having something happen. However, for many children with disabilities, this can be difficult, as they don’t have fine motor skills control, or may have other impairments.
“What we do is adapt the toy so that a large button or switch will work the effect, which makes it easier to use.”
MERU also have adapted toys for sale in their online shop. An example of an adapted toy currently on sale is the Fisher Price “BeatBo” cuddly toy which now has an accessible switch so that little fingers can play five sing-along songs and watch as it lights up in time to the beat.
MERU are part of the Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation of Disabled People family of charities. They not only adapt and sell existing toys, but they design and supply, in-house, all types of disability products. These award-winning designs have been produced in response to requests by parents and therapists for toys and aids for children with special needs.
Designs include the “Flexzi 2” gadget stand which clamps to the edge of a table or wheelchair and supports a mobile phone, tablet or kindle, and “Groovz”, a stable arm guide, which allows people with impaired upper limb function to stabilize their arms and perform tasks with their hands they wouldn’t otherwise be able to manage.
Details of products stocked by MERU and any other information and help relating to their services can be found on their website at meru.org.uk.