EARLY YEARS: Toy Like Me at Roanoke College promotes awareness and inclusiveness

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7)-- Kids with disabilities often have a tough time finding toys that resemble them. Thanks to an effort at Roanoke College, children in our hometowns now have more choices.

Roanoke College professor Frances Bosch and her team of students work to make toys reflect kids with disabilities

Professor Frances Bosch teaches a course about people with disabilities. Bosch launched the non-profit Toy Like Me, after reading about a woman in the United Kingdom who started a Facebook group to encourage major toy makers to make toys with disabilities.

The mission goes well beyond toys.

"Because for us, it's about inclusion in society. That's one of our major goals with the toys is to have children accepted as equals," says Bosch.

Typically, these dolls and action figures are familiar ones, just with alterations.

Their destination is the children at Carilion Clinic, as well as others in the community who are nominated to receive them. They're customized to each child.

Daniela Swann has the joy of helping to match children with the toys.

"It's cool to say five-year-old, Caucasian, pickline," says Swann.

Casts, feeding tubes, cochlear implants and other items can be added.

The toys also help a child's family explain their condition to others.

"So, for the siblings and for the parents, it gives them a tool to go out in society and say 'This is our kid,'" says Bosch.

Not all of the modified toys are dolls or action figures. Some are stuffed animals and other creations.

"An elephant that looks like a stuffed animal that rattles, and it has LED lights in it that sings lullabies for a kid who does not identify with the Iron Man or the Captain America," says Swann.

The hope is that these special playthings will promote acceptance in people of ALL ages.

Bosch says, "If we teach the kids, they go home and teach the parents, and if we can get the parents thinking the way we want, that'll be a big difference, too."

You may nominate a child by writing to Frances Bosch at bosch@roanoke.edu. You do not need to reveal the name, or identity of the child, only tell them what is needed to know to modify the toy.

Click here to donate to the program.

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