The stuffed animals look the same as any other, Sharon Thompson says to WearTV. She’s the director of the counseling center and adds there’s science behind the so-called sensory stuffed animals.
What are they? The plushies have one small, but very important change. They have weights inside which kids feel as pressure when they hold them. “That pressure feels calming for them. Without that, they seek that pressure in other ways. They bump into things, they hug people really tight, and with this, they can get their sense of calm in ways that are more socially appropriate”, Thompson says.
There are already specialized weighed stuffed animals out there. The problem is they cost around $70 each which can get expensive for some parents. So, the group is making them from donations.
“The animal has to be opened. Depending on the weight, we have to position it pretty much in the center of the animal. We figure the child will sit with it in their lap or against their chest”, says Kelly Ryals, the chief sensory stuffed animal maker.
Each stuffed animal she and her team makes is customized for the child’s needs. And each plushie has it’s own story. “Charlotte, the plush rabbit, has her birth certificate, she was born in Charlottesville and weighs four pounds. Her birth certificate says ‘I weigh four lbs. I like to be carried around when you are upset. If you need a friend like me, take me home,'” said Ryals.
Each donated toy goes through a special process. “It takes about five hours to do one animal. These beads we use need to be cleaned and sanitized. We need to restuff them if necessary and sew up any holes,” said Ryals.
The counselors are asking the community to help out by donating more large, new or slightly used stuffed animals. They say the effect the plushies have on kids is very positive.
Zeke has only had his plush puppy for about a week and his mom has already seen a major difference. “It’s been a big help anytime he gets upset or overwhelmed,” she said.
If you would like to donate a stuffed animal or if you are interested in getting your child one, you can call (850) 471-3430 or visit their Facebook page here.