Monday, November 05, 2007


Article that appeared in the New Paper on 2 November 2007:

HE won a bag of building sets, board games and soft toys at the Children's Day fair at his school. But Jonathan Ho can only stare at them.

The 10-year-old was born with cerebral palsy, a condition in which the brain has little control over the body's movements. His hands and legs move involuntarily. He can't hold on to things long enough to play with them.

Caregivers of special needs children say that toys designed specially for them are not easily available in Singapore. As a result, the caregivers often have to customise the toys themselves, or buy them overseas, at high prices.

Jonathan's mother, Mrs Serene Ho, 41, a housewife, said it's a struggle to find suitable toys for her son. She has to exclude those that have sharp edges or small parts. Toys that are easily breakable or too heavy are also out.

'Toys (available) in Singapore are for normal children... nobody thinks, 'What if a child can't use his hands?' Mrs Ho said.

But is the market here too small for such toys?

At least one toy shop thinks so.

Ms Joyce Tem, 35, a sales executive at Nikko Toys, which sells toy cars, said two to three walk-in customers a month ask for toys for special needs children. So the shop recommends model construction sets.

Mr Simon Goh, 30, sales manager of Nikko Toys, said toys for special needs children are more easily available in the US, for example, because even 1 per cent of its market 'means a considerable number of customers'.

Ms Zunaidah Shahul Hamid, 43, principal of the Spastic Children's Association School, said that it often buys toys from shops such as Toys R Us and other educational toy suppliers.


They choose toys that help in the development of the children's cognitive and language skills. Teachers help children who need supervision during play.
This group makes up about 40 per cent of the children in the school. The others need only minimal or no supervision, she added.

Mrs Ho said she is often too tied up with domestic chores to supervise Jonathan when he is playing at home.

Once, while playing with a toy computer, he knocked against it and bruised his head.

'Jonathan likes cause-and-effect toys,' Mrs Ho said, 'the kind where you press a button and the toy blinks and makes some sound. When he can't press the buttons, he bangs on them instead. This breaks the toy and he gets irritated.'

It's a situation Mrs Sarah Tan, 44, also encounters with her 10-year-old daughter, Faith.
While Faith's condition isn't as severe as Jonathan's, she still finds it hard to play with her toys.
Mrs Tan said: 'Even if we surround her with many toys, she will sit there not knowing what to do. We always need to guide her.

'She likes musical toys, but we usually need to press the button for her. She just listens to the music. It is hard for her to interact with the toy.'

Mrs Ho said she had gone online to search for suitable toys, such as bicycles, tricycles, therapy rolls and exercise balls.

However, she said: 'The price is in US dollars and with the shipping cost, it's too costly for us to even think about them. Just the insert for Jonathan's push-chair costs $700.'
For now, Mrs Ho simply 'customises' toys for Jonathan.

'I used soft foam and fabric to cover the toys, especially the edges, before letting Jonathan play with them,' she said.

Megha Gupta, newsroom intern

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the article.. Nice to read something about scas. Am sure alot of parents will agree with you about the toys.