Advertisement
  1. Health

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.
Published Apr. 17, 2012

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."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Fifty-two percent of Americans support a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes with fruit and other flavors, according to new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. TONY DEJAK  |  AP
    But a smaller percentage supports banning all forms of the product. Most younger adults oppose both ideas.
  2. FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018 file photo, Juul products are displayed at a smoke shop in New York. On Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, the company announced it will voluntarily stop selling its fruit and dessert-flavored vaping pods. SETH WENIG  |  AP
    The flavored pods affected by the announcement are mango, crème, fruit, and cucumber.
  3. Travis Malloy who runs an 8-acre farm with his assistant Shelby Alinsky on the east side of Temple Terrace, raises organic beef, pigs, turkeys and chickens. Malloy has also set up a number of...
  4. Dr. James Quintessenza, left, will return as the head of the Johns Hopkins All Children's heart surgery program department. UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY HOSPITAL  |  Times
    The heart surgery program’s mortality rate spiked after the surgeon left, a 2018 Times investigation revealed.
  5. Stephanie Vold, a medical assistant and intake specialist for OnMed, holds the door while Austin White, president and CEO of the company, talks with a nurse practitioner during a demonstration of their new telehealth system at Tampa General Hospital on Tuesday. The hospital is the first to deploy the OnMed station and plans to install them at other locations. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The closet-size “office” with a life-size screen is another example of the changing face of medicine.
  6. Marijuana plants grow in a greenhouse environment in this room at the Curaleaf Homestead Cultivation Facility. This environment controls the amount of natural sunlight and artificial light the plants are exposed to, as well as the temperature. EMILY MICHOT  |  Miami Herald
    An Atlanta broker is listing one license for $40 million and the other for $55 million.
  7. A page from the Medicare Handbook focuses on Medicare Advantage plans, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Medicare's open enrollment period for 2020 begins Oct. 15 and lasts through Dec. 7. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS  |  AP
    New benefits are giving an extra boost to Medicare Advantage, the already popular alternative to traditional Medicare.
  8. The Tampa Bay Times' annual Medicare Guide explains how the program is set up, helps you compare options available in the Tampa Bay area, and points the way toward help, including free, one-on-one assistance. This illustration will grace the cover of LifeTimes on Oct. 23, when the guide will be published in print. RON BORRESEN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    As the open enrollment period begins, it’s time to review your coverage.
  9. The Medicare Handbook for 2020 is a good resource to have as the annual open enrollment period gets under way. The government usually mails beneficiaries a copy. Find a PDF version to print at medicare.gov/pub/medicare-you-handbook, or call 1-800-633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE) to order a copy. THOMAS TOBIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The open enrollment period, which lasts into December, is a time for millions of beneficiaries to review, and possibly change, their coverage.
  10. Medicare's online Plan Finder has been redesigned and is available at medicare.gov/find-a-plan. THOMAS TOBIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The most-used tool on Medicare.gov will look different this year.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement