Navy Engineers Modify Toys for Kids with Special Needs

Santa Presents the Toys in Surprise Visit

Watching a toy come to life when it’s turned on is a delight for any child. But for kids with developmental disabilities, something as simple as pressing a button to activate a toy can be an impossible challenge. Toys designed for children with disabilities are available, but can be prohibitively expensive. That’s why Dwire School in Oxnard and a group of Navy engineers joined forces to come up with a better solution.

Dwire School is operated by the Ventura County Office of Education and serves students with moderate to severe disabilities from preschool through fifth grade. The school teamed up with electronics engineers from the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division to create toys its students could operate on their own.

The engineers started with a variety of off-the-shelf toys that move, light up or make sounds when their button is pressed. They then added a connector where a large external push-button can be plugged in. Students who lack the motor skills to press the toy’s original button have a much easier time pressing the big button to turn on the toy.

Today at Dwire School, Santa and Mrs. Claus had the honor of presenting the specially modified toys to the students. “It’s huge because they now have a toy they can activate themselves and turn on any time they want and that makes them so happy,” said Lisa Edwards, a VCOE speech and language pathologist, who was a driving force behind the project.

The Navy got involved thanks to Linh Algra, who works on the base and whose daughter is a student at Dwire. “A lot of commercial toys aren’t made for these kids and they’re not able to fully enjoy them,” she said. “So it’s amazing to see each child being able to have their own toy they can actually use.”

School Sets Up a Workshop to Modify More Toys

The modified toys delivered today won’t be the last for students at Dwire School. Navy electronics engineer David Veloz, who figured out how to adapt the toys, led a training session for school staff so they can modify more toys on their own. Each staff member was provided with a kit containing all of the necessary tools. Veloz also created a written guide and video to demonstrate the process. After some practice, he says it take about 15 minutes to modify each toy. Now that school staffers can modify the toys by themselves, they’ll be able to bring even more joy to kids with special needs this holiday season.

About the Ventura County Office of Education

The Ventura County Office of Education provides a broad array of fiscal, training and technology support services to local school districts, helping to maintain and improve lifelong educational opportunities for children, educators and community members. VCOE also operates schools that serve students with severe disabilities and behavioral issues, provides career education courses, and coordinates countywide academic competitions including Mock Trial and the Ventura County Science Fair. Learn more at:

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