The Real Toy Story

19/11/2014 15:25 GMT | Updated 18/01/2015 10:59 GMT

With Christmas looming, large chunks of TV advertising, shelf space in shops and media coverage has turned to this year's must have toys. From Frozen merchandise to Transformers, parents can be under a lot of pressure to purchase the latest toys.

A new survey out today has revealed that almost half of parents feel at least some pressure to buy their child the latest toys or gifts and that this year, parents are expecting to spend an average of seven hours of shopping per child this Christmas.

Almost one in five parents have used their authorised overdraft to pay for presents with four per cent - one in every 25 parents - resorting to using a payday loan. In addition, more than half of parents have used some form of debt to pay for their child's Christmas gift.

These results show the significant financial pressure that parents can face at Christmas and the lengths some people go to get their children the latest toys. However, it's not all about cost and we know that even simple toys can help a young child learn to communicate and develop as well as have fun.

For a parent of a deafblind child, toys take on an extra meaning - as they can be the way in to reach a child who has little sight or hearing and help them explore the world and express themselves. It can be an aid to communication and help people to develop a shared language. It allows children to learn, be stimulated and to interact with their environment, and often with others.

Matthew is five years old and he learned how to sign four years ago with the help of his support worker and his best friend, Teddy - a toy monkey. He has limited sight and hearing and learning to communicate was the main milestone that his parents were told he might not reach.

However, he's always proved everyone wrong and overcome many obstacles in his short life. When his support worker at his local Sense centre realised that Matthew copied everything his toy monkey did, she used Teddy to teach him to sign.

His mum Helen said:

"Using his favourite toy to teach him sign language allowed him to learn while playing without feeling pressured or rushed."

Matthew also has cerebral palsy as he suffered a brain haemorrhage shortly after he was born. The first few years of his life the doctors had no way of knowing what health issues he'd develop later in life.

"The assessments Matthew had, focused on all the things he wasn't going to be able to do, never on what he could do. It was very lonely for him, because, as he doesn't see or hear as well as other children, he couldn't talk to anyone and no one could understand him."

Learning to sign meant Matthew could talk with his family and play with other children. Four years on he now speaks and is learning how to read and write. He attends a mainstream school and he loves singing.

Teddy the toy monkey mostly stays at home now, as Matthew feels able to do things on his own. His love of animal toys hasn't waned though - his new favourite toy is a fluffy little hedgehog called Brian.

Toys are hugely significant for all children and most of us can remember our favourite toy. That's why we are asking people to share their favourite toy with us in the run up to Christmas using the hashtag #realtoystory to help us raise awareness of how they can be used by deafblind children like Matthew to learn to communicate.

Find out more about how deafblind children can use toys to communicate here: www.sense.org.uk/content/real-toy-story