Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater store stocks tools for helping children with autism, ADD, special needs

Michelle Morton of Palm Harbor explores the children’s play area at the Kids Toolbox. The area is designed to be sensory-safe for kids to play with puzzles and busy boards.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Michelle Morton of Palm Harbor explores the children’s play area at the Kids Toolbox. The area is designed to be sensory-safe for kids to play with puzzles and busy boards.

CLEARWATER — Vicki Wilhelmi has long struggled with finding the right tools and toys that help her with her 14-year-old son, Kurt, who has Asperger's syndrome and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

When a teacher at her school noticed a flier for Kids Toolbox, a new store in Clearwater that stocks materials for kids with autism, attention-deficit disorder and other special needs, she checked it out.

"My reaction was emotional," said Wilhelmi, who lives in Clearwater and also teaches kindergarten. "The setting they created — the lighting in the store is subdued and that really helps; they had a sensory play area. … I just poured my heart out to (owner Pam LeGath). It is like you can go in and you are welcome, not patronized. It's a business, but at the same time it's a caring community."

Kids Toolbox is a kids store with a unique mission. Instead of Play-Doh, it sells "therapy putty" — brightly colored pots of putty that progress from super soft to extra firm to meet a wide range of strengthening needs.

The store has an array of puzzles that do double duty as therapy tools and specially engineered scissors, spoons, child chairs and pencils that make life easier for kids with special needs or developmental issues.

The store stocks "tools" for children and caregivers who face challenges posed by autism, ADHD, developmental delays, sensory disorders and other issues that make things like writing your name, learning to sound out words or eating with a spoon difficult.

A game like Tricky Fish may look like a toy, but it's also a tool to help a child develop gross motor skills, eye muscles and attention span.

You can find special tools like dual control scissors that make it easier for an adult to help a child with weak fine motor skills or poor vision.

And the store stocks seamless socks for kids with sensory issues that make normal socks torture on their toes.

Though the store is open now, owners Mike and Pam LeGath are hosting a grand opening celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the store, 1550 McMullen-Booth Road, Suite F5. There will be promotions and prizes, including a free stay at the TradeWinds, one of the few area hotels with autism-friendly accommodations such as special menus, safety kits for the room and sensory activities.

The store owners ask that you come to the grand opening with a nonperishable food item, which will be donated to the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center in Safety Harbor.

"We want to make our store unique, not just a typical retail store," Mike LeGath said. "We want this to be a community resource center where all feel welcome and can share ideas and information. No longer will people need to blindly order these products online. They will have somewhere to try before they buy."

LeGath's family had its own frustrations, buying items like weighted blankets off the Internet for a member of his family, then having to send returns back and forth through the mail.

"It finally dawned on us that there's a lot of people going through this, so we contacted professionals, therapists and teachers," he said. He found that those individuals also liked the idea of being able to see and handle therapy products themselves.

"We thought if we had a store not only for the parents, but for teachers, doctors, therapists, then the pros can make a better recommendation to parents, and the parents get a better buying experience … and the kids invariably (have) a preference," LeGath said.

The store has a sensory-safe area for kids to play with puzzles and busy boards while parents shop. LeGath plans to host parents, teachers, therapists and children for support groups and seminars. For example, each Sunday at 1 p.m. the store will have a 45-minute children's class such as yoga or music for $10 per class.

Once a month on a Monday evening, there will be lectures for adults. On April 30, an expert will talk about ADHD and the resources available. Call the store at (727) 799-ADHD (2343) to sign up.

Wilhelmi has already signed up for three seminars. In addition to books she bought to help her with her son, she's picked up items to help some of her kindergarten students, such as "chewers" she can put on the end of a pencil for kids with oral motor issues.

While she has long been a catalogue shopper, Wilhelmi said it makes a huge difference to touch and feel the products in person.

She's also discovered tools she didn't know existed.

"They have writing paper where the lines are raised so the kids can feel where they need to stop, and they have a slanted writing board for children who can't lean forward so they can write on their desk," Wilhelmi said. "I so wish I had that when Kurt was younger. You need to be able to touch and feel this to see what works."

>>if you go

Grand opening Saturday

Kids Toolbox, 1550 McMullen-Booth Road, Suite F5. (727) 799-ADHD (2343)

Store hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

Clearwater store stocks tools for helping children with autism, ADD, special needs 04/14/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 1:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Buccaneers defense was among NFL's best when its pressure got to the QB

    Bucs

    It doesn't matter how many times they've thrown a football. It doesn't matter how many seasons they've played. It doesn't matter whether they have a degree from Harvard or Central Florida.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded 6.5 sacks last season, but many of his other contributions didn't show up in the box scores. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]

  2. What you need to know for Thursday, June 29

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    See that thing in the water? No? That's the point. It's that time of the year when stingrays are often lurking in the sand, often not visibly. Remember to do the stingray shuffle if you're out at the beach this weekend. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  3. Pinellas beaches seeing fewer injuries from stingrays, but the summer is still young

    Environment

    FORT DE SOTO — Rebecca Glidden leaned back in her lifeguard chair, watching behind sunglasses as families splashed in the water at Fort De Soto's North Beach.

    A Clearwater water safety supervisor demonstrates the stingray shuffle. Pinellas beaches are reporting relatively few injuries from stingrays so far this year, but they anticipate more as the summer wears on. Officials are reminding beachgoers to do the shuffle when they enter the water and keep an eye out for purple flags flying from the lifeguard towers, which indicate stingray activity. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. Weeki Wachee River advocates agree to work to resolve issues

    Local Government

    WEEKI WACHEE — Degradation of the Weeki Wachee River is a complex mix of circumstances, with a variety of jurisdictions holding the authority to fix the problems. That has made finding solutions over the years more about frustration than success.

    A boat and kayak drift into one another as they share the narrow passage near Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachee River in March. Advocates fear too many vessels are damaging the river.
  5. Despite change in Cuba policy, cruise ships sail on

    Tourism

    TAMPA -- It's smooth sailing for cruises from Tampa to Havana, with the first of Carnival Cruise Line's 12 such excursions launching today, two months after Royal Caribbean's initial voyage from Port Tampa Bay to the island.

    The Empress of the Seas cruise ship docks at the Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal 3 in Tampa. President Donald 

Trump's new Cuba policy may not hurt cruises to Havana at all. In fact, it may help these cruises. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times