The made-up word, Lekotek, comes from the Swedish word lek meaning play, and the Greek suffix, tek, meaning library. Loosely translated, it means “play library,” but to the 6,500 children with physical and cognitive disabilities served to date, and their families, it’s so much more.
The idea was conceived in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1963 by two moms of children with special needs. After being advised to place their children in residential institutions, they were determined to make inclusion a goal for their children. They went to work adapting toys, always believing that providing a way for their children to play would facilitate learning and inclusion.
The concept spread to America and, in December 1983, Lekotek of Georgia was founded by Helene Prokesch, who still is executive director. Lekotek at Cobb, located at 1925 Vaughn Road, NW, Suite 130, in Kennesaw, is one of six locations in metro Atlanta.
“Play sessions are geared toward children with special needs, ages birth to 8 years old,” said Lisa Nevitt, Kennesaw site manager. “During play sessions, families come in for one hour with their Lekotek leader, who has selected developmentally appropriate toys, computer games and even iPad apps to play with. Our focus is on success, and making sure that we’ve set up the play environment so that the child with special needs is an active participant. Unlike other therapies, siblings and parents are encouraged to attend and participate in sessions. We know that siblings often are left out during therapy visits, and we strive to make Lekotek a fun place for the whole family. At the end of our session, we pack up a bag filled with the toys that we played with for the family to continue the fun at home until their next visit.”
“Lekotek has been so good for Crue,” said parent Tay Furlong. “I love seeing him interact with new toys and learn new things. Each time we go, I get to see him experience something different. The eye gaze technology is so cool. I love watching him activate the screen. It’s so nice to be able to take Crue to therapy that is actually fun for him.”
“Lekotek is a home, a community full of love, and a cheerful place where acceptance for every child that comes through its doors is evident,” said parent Erin Morgan. “Avery has grown and learned so much from her leader, Nicole, who puts her heart into every play session. She understands Avery’s needs, and, more importantly, her motivations, to help her engage in learning. Avery and I are beyond blessed to be a part of the Lekotek family.”
“Children with disabilities have the same needs as every child — to learn, play, be included, have friends and be loved,” Prokesch said. “To realize their full potential, they need to learn how to believe in themselves, so that they can achieve their dreams. Today, many Lekotek graduates are attending colleges and working in their communities. Some are living independently, and others in group homes. All are achieving their goals and realizing Lekotek’s mission of inclusion.”
Lekotek at Cobb offers the following services:
• Monthly play sessions.
• Play dates.
• Family activities, such as adapted egg hunts, Happy Tails/Care-ing Paws days, musical Saturdays, and more.
• Computer club.
• Toy-adapting workshops for parents and professionals.
To get started with play sessions or get on the email list, call 770-420-9889. The cost of play sessions is $240 for the year, or $20 per month; scholarships are available. Lekotek is committed to making sure that no family is turned away due to an inability to pay. For more information, to donate, or to get involved, visit www.lekotekga.org or email email@example.com.
– Susan Schulz, a wife, mom, writer and mentor who lives and plays along the Etowah River in Canton.