Last December, Christmas was made particularly special for a class at Oak Grove Elementary School in Roanoke, Virginia.
As reported by the local WDBJ7 news station, Roanoke College students and biology professor, Dr. Frances Bosch, delivered toys they had altered to Mrs. Gruber’s special education classroom.
For children with disabilities, finding toys that look like them can be difficult and they can sometimes feel left out as a result.
As Dr. Bosch points out,
[… because only] twenty percent of the population have a disability of some sort, it is unlikely that major manufacturers would make toys to truly give every child a toy like them.
Yet, for students of this classroom, and for many other children as a result of the Toy Like Me project in Roanoke and the UK, finding toys that represent them has been made a little easier.
The Toy Like Me project at Roanoke College began when Dr. Bosch was researching for her 2015 May Term class, and she read about the Toy Like Me program started by Rebecca Atkinson in the UK.
Atkinson recognized the need for more diversified toys and started the program in order to lobby major toy manufacturers into producing toys more diverse toys.
The following year, while planning for her 2016 May Term class, Dr. Bosch decided not to wait for toy manufacturers to start diversifying their products.
I contacted Rebecca and asked if we could modify toys and give them away in the name of Toy Like Me.
So, the May 2016 class modified $300 worth of toys, and we gave most of them to Carilion Clinic’s Children’s Hospital in Roanoke.
This was not the end, however, as this project would spark continued projects in the name of Toy Like Me at Roanoke College. As Dr. Bosch describes,
Last school year, we did a Santa Claus Toy drive, and gave away $1600 worth of toys. [We] then gave toys away for Valentine’s [Day], and again in April.
My May 2017 class modified $700 worth of toys for the Pediatric Oncology ward at UVA through RC alumna Karra (Slaughter) Lee, who is a PA in that ward.
This year’s Santa Claus toy drive saw toys go to children in several schools in Roanoke City and County.
Including Oak Grove Elementary.
Last semester, we partnered with Dr. Findley-Van Nostrand’s Developmental Psychology classes. They modified toys with us, then participated in the delivery of toys to Oak Grove Elementary.
According to Dr. Findley-Van Nostrand, her students worked with Professor Bosch, the “heart and soul of the program” in order modify the toys based on each individual student.
If someone is in a wheelchair, a doll can be modified to include a wheelchair; if a child has a feeding tube, a tube can be inserted in toys; if a child wears glasses or has crutches, they add those […]
For Dr. Findley-Van Nostrand, the Toy Like Me program was “a memorable experience” as she “loved seeing the kids get so surprised and excited over the toys, and it was a great opportunity for my students as well.”
Dr. Bosch notes plans to partner with Dr. Findley-Van Nostrand’s class again this semester, as well as with Psi Chi, the Honors Society for psychology.
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