June 27, 2017


I have spent many a moment holding back the tears as I walk through the aisles at Toys "R" Us every Christmas, birthday and occasions in between trying to find something that Bridger will be able to play with.

I come away empty handed and heavy hearted.

I have a favorite catalog of special needs toys and such that I receive in the mail.  I pour longingly through the pages and am used to the steep price tags attached to everything "special", but I have figured out the formula to help unfamiliar minds calculate those prices.  

Here it is:

**With any special needs equipment or toys, take what you think it would cost, triple that number, then add a 0 to the end of that number, and you will be correct.**

The price of "play" for Bridger is nearly impossible to swallow.

Bridger had a wonderful physical therapist early on that taught me to look at Home Depot through "special" eyes.

And that is what I did to make some summer fun for Bridger et al.

I call it DIY{A} (Do it Yourself Accessible).

I had been looking at the special needs catalog and drooling over an expensive accessible sensory table for Bridger for the past year.  I knew he would love to wheel up and play in the water and sand buckets.  It was something "age appropriate" where peers would want to join him in play.  Unfortunately, an accessible sensory table play table cost around $800.  And because we still like to eat, it is not in the budget.

But maybe. . . just maybe. . . 

I drew up a design, measured Bridger all around and did some hard math (that really should be easy math) and headed to Home Depot to look through the aisles with my "special" eyes.

I cut a bunch of different lengths of 2x4's, added some decking brackets, heavy duty concrete mixing tubs, screws and casters from Home Depot and used some left over paint in our garage.

I created the frame which the girls helped me assemble, screw and paint.  We added the two concrete tubs,

And voila!

An accessible sensory play table for $41 that can roll out of the garage to the driveway or roll back into the garage for some shady cooler play time.  Ty likes the shade space underneath -- even when Bridger thinks it is funny to have some water continuously dribble from the tub onto his tolerant pal below.

It's not catalog worthy - but it is wheelchair kid worthy and they have enjoyed hours of playtime fun with it.

I purchased a dozen pounds of kinetic sand (awesome for kids with sensory integration disorders) and a bunch of miniature sand toys and put them on one side, and added water and little plastic bead things that grow to large gel-like water marbles (because that is as technical as I can describe them) which are sensory delights, along with a bunch of water toys on the other side.

I have spent many afternoons in my lounge chair watching friends gather around him at the sensory table and play with him.  It makes him smile.  It makes me smile, too.

*     *     *     *     *     *

As I was becoming more brave with my crafting abilities, my mind continued to chew for a solution for another dilemma.  Bridger loves imaginary play with food.  All of the little play kitchens and play markets I found were designed for the under 4 crowd and the designs prohibited play if Bridger was in his wheelchair.

But maybe . . . just maybe. . .

I drew up a design, used some geometry that I still had stored somewhere in my brain and headed to Home Depot.

I had an employee cut me several lengths of PVC pipe and purchased some different angled couplings and end caps.  At home I took an old Ikea bookshelf that was getting dusty in the closet, some leftover fabric and bought some plastic shelf liner and hanging baskets from the dollar store and an old office tape calculator that I found at the county surplus store for $5.

I created the market awning frame from the sections of PVC that I painted green and mounted the top of the frame into the wall with cheap curtain rod hooks.  I screwed the end caps directly into the top of the shelf and inserted the pvc pipe into it so it is nice and secure.  I eyeballed a crude pattern for the awning and began to cut and sew and attached the fabric awning over the back part of the frame using some velcro strips I sewed along the back flap of the awning.  Crystal clear? I was afraid it might be.  That's how I create.  No pattern, no instructions, just measure twice, cut once. . . then get a little frustrated and measure a third time and cut again.

I took out the best power tool of all - my glue gun, and after using a dinner plate to trace my scallop onto the plastic shelf lining, I glued it to the hem of the awning.

And voila!

An $18 accessible play market!

Again, it is not catalog worthy, but it is wheelchair kid worthy!  Bridger and Eliza have had hours of imaginary playtime with it - and Bridger's older sisters have been roped into to playing grocery store a time or two as well:)  It is sturdy, high and deep enough to for him to wheel behind in his chair and be one tough market boss.  Warning: his prices are steep and he leaves no room for negotiation!

In the world of Special, I have learned that solutions to problems have to come from within.  Sometimes it is discouraging to think that my attempts at finding answers to help Bridger thrive yield more failures than successes. But the successes I have give me hope, which is fuel to keep trying.

And for the moment, there is happiness all around in these two victories.

Moral of the Story:  You can DIY{A}!

Have a favorite DIY{A} success?  Please share!