Aubrey playing with an adapted toy using a switch

Over the course of the last year, CHEO, a children’s hospital in Ottawa, has been the recipient of a number of adapted toys and switches made and donated by Makers Making Change and our volunteers.

For Laura Bradley, an occupational therapist at CHEO, adapted toys and switches are a way to teach children with disabilities vital skills and abilities.

“It allows a child to play independently,” she explains. “And it allows a child to learn the concepts of cause and effect — I do something to my environment, and something happens back to me — and we take that ability, and we expand it as wide as we can within the child’s developmental potential.”

While there are commercial options out there, the toys and switches can each cost hundreds of dollars.

“Having a child who has a disability often comes with a lot of costs that people don’t realize,” she says, noting while there are funding options out there for commercial options, not all are covered. “So some families are able to do that, but for other families it brings that element of play completely out of reach.”

With the donation of adapted toys and switches made by volunteers, more kids at CHEO can access these devices and take them home.

“I’ve received lots of really positive feedback — the parents are so appreciative of it, and the children are loving those toys.”

For children with disabilities like Aubrey, it can make a world of difference.

Aubrey doesn’t have much coordination in her arms and hands, making it difficult to use a standard toy by herself.

“She’s very alert, she’s social, and she wants to play and she wants to interact, but her body just won’t allow her to do that,” her mother Carly explains. “If she didn’t have a switch, she wouldn’t be able to play with a toy appropriately. The switch kind of allows her to experience the toy like a neurotypical child does.”

Aubrey received an adapted “My Pal Scout” toy, with an assistive switch to go with it. She loves it.

“Her face, every time she has a switch toy, she just lights up,” Carly says. “Having this switch gives her this really great sense of independence.”

“We go over to help her with the switch toy, and she doesn’t want us there,” her father Derrick laughs.

While they’ve borrowed adapted toys before, this is the first one they’ve owned.

“We’re just super grateful, and we appreciate all the time and effort that goes into it, because we just wouldn’t be able to access the kind of toys that Aubrey likes if this kind of organization didn’t exist,” says Carly.

“Thank you to everyone for the donation, very generous, and when you guys are making them, you probably don’t realize how life-changing it is for Aubrey, but it really brightens her day,” says Derrick.

Help us keep #HackingForTheHolidays, and adapt 500 toys for kids with disabilities this holiday season! We are planning toy hackathon events across Canada where students, volunteers, and corporate partners will build adapt toys for kids with disabilities. Your donation and support can help us fund the toys and parts, make the adaptations, and close this access gap for kids with disabilities this holiday season.

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