Thumball came to be while I was working as a speech pathologist. I had a challenging class of 14 students with a variety of learning challenges. I found ways to effectively combine games with language development activities but I noticed that when it was not their own turn the student’s didn’t pay attention to the activity or their classmates.
Writing vocabulary words on a small stuffed ball and allowing the students to play ball in class got their undivided attention! First passing the ball, then rolling it then gentle tosses. Finally a student asked, “Why are there words all over the ball?”. I explained the concept that when I say STOP the person holding the ball must lift their thumb and talk about the word. This worked well and best of all the students began learning from each other because they never took their eye off the ball!
After several months of making my own designs and using Thumball effectively I had a dream, a literal dream that woke me from my sleep with the instructions to “Make this product and market it because no one has time to make their own games anymore!” The dream occurred on my deceased father’s birthday and felt to me like he was communicating this idea to me almost like a gift. When I shared my dream with my partner (now husband) Gregg he immediately “got” the concept and saw the limitless potential.The concept for this game has been used by many educators often utilizing beach balls but it had inherent flaws. I knew the ball had to be safe, easy to control, provide pleasing sensory input and use relevant content for improving communication skills. The real invention was our decision to go forth and actually find a way to get Thumball manufactured and marketed. My husband’s optimism, life experience and tenacity made my dream into a reality. (This will be the subject of another post one day).
Our life has never been the same since. It is rewarding to see therapists, teachers, parents, friends and employees get together and watch how Thumball can enhance the interactions. The only way to really know Thumball is to play it often and new ideas develop and grow. We now create custom Thumballs for companies that want a special way to market their products, supply useful learning tools to schools and effectively convey a message about their business. We look back at our beginnings and smile and encourage all to follow their dreams.