Newcastle Toy & Leisure Library

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Jennifer's Story



My Toy Library Story



Jennifer was born with several complex medical problems, which she was battling well to overcome. Unfortunately two weeks into her recovery her heart stopped functioning for 30 to 40 minutes. This was the main contributing factor in Jennifer's Cerebral Palsy. Jennifer continued to have further obstacles to overcome in her early years which she always battled bravely. It was in these early years that we as a family started to use the Toy Library.

Jennifer's sister Catherine was only 3 at this time. The Toy Library allowed us to go out as a family in an environment that we could relax in. Caring for a child with medical problems and disabilities can be isolating. Suddenly your whole topics of conversation and concern change, and can be out of step with your peers and the rest of society. Being able to meet and talk to parents facing similar problems was very helpful. We found ourselves dealing with many health and government bodies. Being able to share our experiences and learn from other peoples was very beneficial.

Jennifer's medical problems left her with very little physical ability, she also has a profound hearing loss and epilepsy. Communication is very difficult with Jennifer, and so evaluating the extent of Jennifer's mental capacity was very challenging. She had an exhaustive range of therapies to encourage neurological development. Many of these needed the use of specialised equipment and toy's; some relatively simple, but unaffordable, others specially adapted in some way to allow Jennifer to interact with them. This equipment was very influential in discovering and evaluating Jennifer's abilities. Being able to borrow this equipment from the Toy Library has assisted in Jennifer's access to appropriate educational placement.

The loan of specialist equipment from the Toy Library also allowed Jennifer to access a main stream nursery. At this time the provision and access to this setting for children with severe disabilities was not well supported. Giving Jennifer interaction with peers of her own age was very good for her development, but also helped us feel normal in some way.

The outings and activities organised by the Toy Library have enabled us to enjoy many social occasions as a family. The support of being with a group of similar families has helped to include us in mainstream activities.

As Catherine got older and grew up to do her own activities, I have increasingly been the main adult attending the Toy Library with Jennifer. I would never feel isolated as a father and daughter since many family groups also attend, and I am not a lone male figure.

The Toy Library has always been an important part of Jennifer's life. The support and understanding of the staff is always appreciated. It seems only yesterday we made our way down to Scotswood, with Oxygen bottles in tow. Thank you Newcastle Toy Library.