Eight year old Ronnan has never met his grandpa in person. The challenges of distance and health issues have meant that he’s spent his life away from his extended family.
But thanks to his mum’s creative thinking, Ronnan and his grandpa are still able to play with LEGO together, even when they’re far apart.
At his young age, Ronnan has been through difficult challenges. Born 13 weeks premature, the first five months of his life were spent connected to a life-support machine. For the following two and half years, he required feeding tubes and was “oxygen dependent” – requiring additional oxygen.
Ronnan also lives with cerebral palsy, a physical disability affecting the use of his right hand. However, even with limited mobility, he loves playing with LEGO bricks. Now, Ronnan can play alongside his grandpa while they’re on the phone together.
But it’s not just his grandpa that Ronnan is sharing his LEGO with. He’s also part of a small group of families in different parts of Australia who have started exchanging “LEGO friendship packages.” Each package contains a small LEGO-related item, giving the kids a chance to connect with others in similar situations.
Ronnan’s mother, Yoshi Bradley, came up with the idea after meeting other mums in a Facebook Group for Australian LEGO enthusiasts. Living in Adelaide, she sent a heart-felt message to the group after Ronnan was ineligible for participating in a LEGO-focused play group specifically for kids with autism. “My son has a lot of traits very similar to autism. He just can’t use his right hand, which is why LEGO is perfect therapy for him.” Yoshi explained, “He has many friends with autism so he gets on with them. It’s so hard when they make it for one thing only. There really isn’t much for kids with CP out there.”
Other special needs parents quickly rallied around her. They shared their own frustrations and words of encouragement. The discussion led to Yoshi coming up with the LEGO exchange idea after one mother offered to organise a play time with her child, but realised they lived in different states.
Now, the first LEGO friendship packages have been mailed and are on their way to Ronnan’s new friends. Ronnan’s grandpa is about to receive something in the mail too – and discover the joy of playing with LEGO toys with others, even if they can’t be next to you.