Healthwatch 16: Lekotek – Therapy Through Play

CLARKS SUMMIT -- Children who have special needs can get all sorts of therapies: physical, occupational, speech or visual. But some experts say there's nothing like good old fashioned play to bring out the best in a kid, and a program in Lackawanna County is bringing that to life.

It's hard not to react like a kid, all wide-eyed and slightly in awe, when you walk through the doors of a room at United Cerebral Palsy in Clarks Summit: there are toys everywhere. This is Lekotek.

Lekotek is a Swedish made-up word that means play library.

And it's where play specialist Sally McCullon works with children with all sorts of special needs.

Families visit once a month or so, for about an hour at a time, to work with toys specially made or modified for their developmental needs.

"Parents will say, 'We're working on grasping or using two hands.' And I'll have something in the inventory we can pull or push, something like that," McCullon explained.

In little Riley's case, it's movement they're working on this day.

Riley has a very rare type of hydrocephalus called X-link hydrocephalus, or L1cam syndrome. That's a genetic form of hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in cavities deep inside the brain.

"When he was born, they did not have a very good prognosis for him. He was not supposed to live till 2, and he was supposedly going to be a complete vegetable," said Alison Kandrovy.

Riley is now 2 years old and, so far, beating every odd. He is developmentally delayed, but he's come through several surgeries and gets physical, occupational, and visual therapy.

His mom Alison credits Lekotek, especially with helping with his balance and strength.

"Play as therapy is probably the best thing for him at this point, probably why he's making such great progress."

If a child seems to like a certain toy, Sally says they can take it home for a while, bring it back and get something else the next time; whatever it takes to make progress but have fun doing it.

"Play is definitely a child's work. Every child automatically plays, and sometimes a special need gets in the way of that playing."

Lekotek gets funding from United Cerebral Palsy of Northeast Pennsylvania and from the United Way. Families who go pay a membership fee.