Lending Toys, Lending Support

The Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library reaches out to children with special needs.

Photo by Laura Petrilla


Diverse membership always has been a core mission of the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library, a volunteer-run play space and collection of toys. In this vein, the library in April introduced “Kids With Special Needs Night” each month. On these evenings (every second Thursday), board members use beige filters to soften fluorescent lights, which can be aggravating or distracting to those on the autism spectrum. An auxiliary room is set up for kids who might feel anxious or in need of a quiet space to calm down, and a selection of special needs-oriented toys — including a light table, a balance bike and dolls with crutches and in wheelchairs — is ready for play. The evening is all about anticipating what will help, and children aren’t the only ones who benefit. Organizer Katy Rank Lev, who has a son on the autism spectrum, explains, “Sometimes it’s nice just to be with parents for whom behaviors or things that might seem odd [to others] are really no big deal . . . I think it’s nice for the whole family.” Admission is free for members, and $5 per child (with a $10 per-family maximum) for non-members.

[5401 Centre Ave., Shadyside; 412/682-4430, pghtoys.org]

Categories: Community Feature