Most stuffed animal toys on the market have nothing wrong with them. But that is not always true in the case of children.
"We wanted to present something children with disabilities can relate to," says Pat Azarnoff, executive director of Pediatric Projects Inc., a nonprofit group that develops medically oriented toys for children.
"Exceptional Animals" is the name for a series of honey-colored bears with medical problems. Some have short-term disabilities and wear eye patches or leg casts. Others, with long term disabilities, wear dark glasses and carry a white cane.
"We use exactly the same materials for the appliances on the bears that are used on children," said Azarnoff. "And the appliances come off, indicating you can get better."
Many hospitals and doctors in private practice use the toys to show children what it's like to wear a cast or a brace. The toys can also help indicate to parents what the child is thinking.
"Young children often feel guilty when they get sick," Azarnoff said. "They think they have done something wrong and are being punished."
By observing the child during a play session with the toy, parents and doctors are learning about these guilt feelings and are better able to help children deal with them.
In addition to the bears, which cost $20, the group offers a variety of other toys, books and information on therapeutic play programs. To get a copy of their catalogue, write: Pediatric Projects Inc., P.O. Box 1880, Santa Monica, Calif., 90406, or call: (213) 828-8963.