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Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

Have you heard of Steps Charity?

Have you heard of Steps Charity?

Steps Logo

Steps Charity loans sensory toys to children of all ages and abilities. They have a postal lending library and also adapt toys by request for switch use.

Steps Charity is a registered UK organisation that believes that every day can be a play day for children with additional needs who cannot play independently. They work with mainstream toys to adapt them to individual children’s needs, creating uniquely designed toys perfect for your child. These toys are generally operated by an external switch that the Steps team personally develop to meet your child’s needs. For example, for a child with limited dexterity, they may create a switch that only needs to be lightly touched or perhaps one that can be blown or sucked.

The best thing about the work at Steps do is that they try to adapt any toy you want. If your child is a mad Rory the Racing Car fan, you can tell the Steps Charity the details of the toy you have in mind and they can find out whether it’s something that can actually adapt and then begin working for you, once you send them the toy of course. Steps are committed to focussing on what your child CAN DO and working with their skills to create a toy which they can fully enjoy and develop with. Every day can be play day with the help of Steps.

Sensory Toy Lending Library

A Steps Charity Sensory Switch

As well as regular switches, Steps can provide special sensory switches which are known to be great for offering multi-sensory stimulation for children with PMLD and also children who have significant hearing or visual impairments. As the picture shows, these switches are extremely bright and tactile, with music, lights and vibrations. They are designed as sensory toys in their own right but can also be linked to a specific external toy and used separately when required. The technology involved really is special and is something that many children already have benefitted from.

Steps Charity has a Facebook page and they are always looks for membership support to back up their campaign because they believe that every child deserves play time and we agree. The Trabasack team have a personal debt to Steps Charity. The co-founder’s son, Joe, has Dravet Syndrome and PMLD and has benefited from many years membership of the library, he has enjoyed many different toys that have been adapted for switch use.

 Visit the Steps Charity website


Skoog The Inclusive Musical Instrument that is Going Mainstream

Image shows the "Skoog" - a white foam cube with convex semicircles in primary colours on each side.

A curious little cube – the Skoog is a truly accessible musical instrument!

Skoog – The Squishy Cube that is Now Available on the Apple Store!

We have been big fans of skoog since we first saw it and are thrilled to see it breaking through into mainstream use, and now  it is EVEN AVAILABLE ON THE APPLE STORE! 

The Skoog is a curiously titled electronic device that, when combined with computer software, can bring the world of art and music to life for those with learning difficulties and physical disabilities.

“What exactly is a Skoog?!” I hear you ask – well, the Skoog is a soft, durable cube with coloured convex semi-circles on each side that work as buttons. It is made from a tactile and squeezable foam that really appeals to sensory desires, and when the “buttons” are pressed (or hit, tapped and even if the Skoog is shaken-about!) musical notes are created through the computer software.

Skoog Video from The Apple Store – all music featured made using a Skoog

The Skoog has been created to be easy to use and implement at home or in an educational setting – so simple to set-up, it simply connects to either PC or Mac via USB and once you have the correct software installed, you’re away!

The simplicity of usability of the Skoog makes it ideal for children and adults with learning difficulties or physical impairments, especially in comparison to traditional, conventional instruments. The sounds that can be created are endless, from the smooth, airy notes of a flute, to the warm pluck of Spanish guitar strings – all these creative noises and more are literally at fingertips of anyone who uses it.

Image of a man in an orange t-shirt, with the Skoog on a table in front of him, as he holds the USB lead out towards the camera

So simple to install and use – just plug ‘n’ play via USB, and you’re away!

What’s more is that the Skoog can be activated using any body-part (such as the chin, elbow, feet etc), which adds further accessibility for those with limited movement and dexterity, or those with physical disabilities.

The Skoog is itself touch-sensitive, and this setting can easily be altered whenever needed through the advanced software used to create the musical output for the Skoog. This not only enables the user to pick an instrument of choice to experiment with, but also allows for further creative expression – changing the timbre and force with which the notes are produced, providing endless scope for creating musical art.

The Skoog is a fantastic and innovative creative tool that has helped many children and adults around the world create music and art with ease, providing them with confidence, a sense of progress and achievement, and not to mention, an abundance of musical fun!

Pioneered by Disabled Musicians

Amongst the many pioneering electronic musicians who champion the Skoog as an instrument of choice is Charlotte White. Charlotte had an accident when she was in her early teens, and although it took a lot of strength and courage, she was determined to continue on her musical journey that she started before the accident.

Charlotte’s muscular-neuro disease has made it difficult to use musical instruments in the traditional way, but with the help of a number of innovative technologies such as the Skoog, she has been given the chance to create music again and be part of a number of orchestras and ensembles that have performed across the globe.

Charlotte is currently working on a new composition using the Skoog, and you can see photos of her performing with the Paraorchestra in Qatar here, along with a little help from her trusty Trabasack (or “Trabba” as Charlotte calls it! 🙂

The Skoog Goes Mainstream

Although the Skoog is of course ideal for aiding those with disabilities to creatively express themselves, it is also proving to be quite a hit as a versatile, mainstream musical instrument.

Image is split into 4 distinct sections - at the top orange background with "VOCALS" in text, Brett's head in headphones singing. Three bottom sections are green, blue and red from left to right. Reading "GUITAR, DRUMS, BASS" each one showing band member playing the Skoog for each instrument.

The Brett Domino Trio demonstrate the true versatility of the Skoog.

Fantastic news is that the Skoog is now available to purchase directly from the mainstream outlet of the Apple Store across Europe. The Skoog’s quirky design and unusual usability is sure to appeal to many at-home maestros and professional instrumentalists alike – and moreover, can now be purchased so simply with just a few clicks!

To illustrate the creative possibilities of the Skoog, watch the video below of the inimitable Brett Domino, doing a rather idiosyncratic cover version of the OutKast hit “Hey Ya!”

The Skoog reviewed in Future Music Magazine

graphic of a text [panel describing the skoog

The Skoog as reviewed in Future Music Magazine

The Skoog has also recently been reviewed in Future Music Magazine. Describing as a “distinctive, squishy, colourful object” and suggesting that you “pair it with an AlphaSphere for the ultimate WTF controller set up. 8/10″

The Skoog is so intuitive to use, and so much fun, there are seemingly endless creative ways of using it to create your own musical masterpiece. Click here to view and purchase the Skoog from the official Apple Store UK.

Lollipop Jungle and Trabasack

Our son Joe is now 7!  He got lots of new sensory toys for his birthday including a ‘Lollipop Jungle’ from TFH Special Needs Toys.

It has always been hard to find Joe toys that he can enjoy. Joe has Dravet Syndrome and although he had an ordinary development as a baby, suddenly severe epilepsy began at about 9 months old. He lost lots of skills, and is now trying to re- learn and develop new skills in feeling and grasping  objects.

Joe started to have have a portage teacher at around 2 years old and we were thrilled to see that she was able to start simple exercises with him to help him explore his surroundings again. One of the things that his portage teacher discovered was that Joe liked rough and prickly textures but didn’t like smooth toys anymore! We found that rough textures like ‘hook’ velcro tape, or ridged surfaces seemed to help him connect with things and he would hold his hands against them and explore them for much longer. With smooth untextured surfaces Joe would quickly pull his hands away.

Joe does like smooth surfaces now but he also still likes to explore prickly and textured surfaces. We are always looking for new sensory play toys  for him to explore on his trabasack. We were pleased to find a great new toy for him called a Lollipop Jungle

Joe with Lollipop Jungle sensory toy on a Trabasack

Joe with Lollipop Jungle sensory toy on a Trabasack

The Lollipop Jungle is a yellow hardwood tray base with plastic ‘lollipops’ that you can attach things to. The tray base can itself be attached to a Trabasack using velcro tape or hook tape. This allows it to be within reach of your child and the soft bean bag cushion under the Trabasack means it can rest comfortably there.

The plastic straw lollipops are various colours that add to the sensory appeal of the toy. You can use them to add other items such as cotton reels, toys, sponges, or anything that your child might like to explore.

The Lollipop Jungle can be attached to the Trabasack play tray

The Lollipop Jungle can be attached to the Trabasack play tray

Joe really enjoyed moving his fingers between the straws and finding new objects to play with. The straws have have plastic beads on top of them so that they are safe. Each bead has a safety stopper to prevent it coming off. This gives it the appearance of a lollipop!

The toy came flat packed but was very easy to assemble, and once the stalks are in place and the lollipops slotted into the board they are very difficult to remove, an important safety feature.

It comes with variety of small ‘trinkets’ to use but like us, I expect many parents with a child with special needs will have many of their own!
The toy is tough and robust and will cope with vigorous play. Any child brushing thier hands through the stalks will be rewarded by finding new objects. This will encourage expansive brushing movements and improve curious exploratory play and fine motor skills using the fingers to grasp the smaller objects.
Lollipop Jungle
Lollipop Jungle
The Lollipop Jungle has been a great sensory toy for Joe. It is available from TFH Sensory Toys. A Trabasack Curve Connect makes a very useful mount for it, a further benefit is that it can attach to any buggy with straps, meaning that the lollipop jungle can be played with in a variety of locations, not just at home.
Trabasack and Lollipop Jungle

Trabasack and Lollipop Jungle