Jessica Landsberg has always known she wanted to follow in her mother Tina Weisman’s footsteps. “I grew up in a household where my mother, an occupational therapist, was always seeing private clients,” recalls Jessica. “It felt like I had a playdate all the time because my mother would utilize me in her sessions. As I got older, I would ask questions about her clients like, “Why is that kid wearing a brace on his leg?’ I was really curious.”
The more Jessica learned about her mother’s work with children with disabilities, the more she knew she wanted to make a career of helping those with special needs. “My mom’s been an incredible role model,” she says.
Jessica, who recently earned a master’s degree in speech pathology from Buffalo State College in New York, is currently a speech-language pathologist entering her clinical fellowship year. This fall, she’ll be working with children with communication challenges at a charter school in New York City. Recently, she accompanied Tina, who officially joined the Enabling Devices team as a consultant in July, to the company’s headquarters.
“My mom always told me that the Enabling Devices office was like the North Pole of adaptive toys. It really was! Coming out of graduate school, I hadn’t seen all the toys and devices I learned about. It was so much fun to play with them and see how they worked.”
Tina’s relationship with Enabling Devices goes back decades. In fact, she says, the company’s founder, Steve Kanor, “trained me when I was at Jessica’s career stage. It was very meaningful to bring Jessica to the office and to watch her give her feedback about the products. Jessica had such great ideas and such a good understanding of how the toys facilitate play and learning. I feel like I’m coming full circle,” says Tina.
Full circle, indeed. Enabling Devices CEO Seth Kanor, Steve’s son, has brought Tina on board to consult with the company on product development. “It is so meaningful to me to work with someone who knew my dad and watched him work. Many of the devices that they worked on together still form the core of our catalogue. My father had a deep respect for Tina’s talent and her commitment to the community and it is an honor to be able to continue that very special relationship.” he says.
In her new role with the company, Tina, a supervisor at United Cerebral Palsy of Westchester, private practitioner, workshop leader and OTD (Doctor of Occupational Therapy) candidate, will be consulting on topics like new product design, telehealth and virtual learning.
“I’m there to help them create toys that maximize children’s participation in adaptive play and simple communication,” she says.
While Tina has long been a resource and friend of Enabling Devices, her expertise is especially valuable in the age of COVID-19.
“Virtual learning is not the optimal way for many kids with disabilities to learn,” she explains.
“In the spring, [when COVID-19 first closed schools], a lot of kids who relied on switch-adapted toys to learn about concepts like cause and effect, weren’t able to participate in their virtual lessons. It was sad to watch,” says Tina. “Enabling Devices makes everything that’s needed for kids to be able to play and learn at home.”
Tina’s latest project has involved designing affordable bundles of products that OTs can use in telehealth sessions with their clients. The Sensory Duo #5102 includes our Compact Activity Center and Sensational Tubes; the Cause and Effects Duo #5103 includes the Jumbo Switch with Lights, Music and Vibration and the Musical Llama Stacker; and the Communication Duo # 5104 includes the Big Talk one-message communicator and the High Contrast Icons.
“I’m hoping we may be able to get school districts to buy in to our telehealth plan and provide students with toys and devices [like the ones in the bundles] they need to learn from home,” says Tina. “If so, we’ll be filling a gap that is so important for these children. I’m honored by being given the opportunity to work with this incredibly creative team. We have so many shared goals.”