Go Baby Go! Mobility & Sociability
Go Baby Go! Mobility & Sociability
Mason Motes (two years old) of Woodstock, Georgia, was born with Down syndrome. Thanks to five-time-a week therapy he is making progress in dealing with his disability. But, he still has severe limitations; he can’t talk (his parents are teaching him some sign language) and he just started walking at 20 months of age. W hat bothered him the most, however, was being unable to play with his 5 year old brother, Chase.
That was until last November.
Paisley Queen of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, suffered a stroke in utero. She has cerebral palsy and is unable to use her right hand and her right arm. She suffers from weakness in her entire right side of the body. That was until just after she turned 2 a couple of years ago.
What changed the lives of these two young children was the ability to get on a riding toy and play with other children. But, not just any riding toy; a riding toy specially adapted to meet the needs of the disabilities that these two children were dealing with.
Their toys were “off the shelf” items that were individually modified to meet the child’s individual needs, and were modified by volunteers associated with a program called “Go Baby Go”.
“Go Baby Go changes the perception of what a kid can do,” says University of Delaware professor, Cole Gallaway, who came up with the GBG concept nearly a decade ago.
“It changes the perception from ‘special needs’ to ‘adventure’.”
The GBG model takes power riding toys, such as those sold by toy stores, and utilizes the skills and of expertise of Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists and Electrical Engineers to craft changes specific to the individual child.
- Occupational Therapists to determine what adaptations the child needs to be able to operate the riding toy.
- Physical Therapists to determine the strength that is available for the child to move the controls.
- Engineers to work on re-wiring the riding toy so it works.
Their materials include Velcro, PVC pipes, pool noodles and kickboards to create wheelchair-like toys.
The cars also function as physical therapy devices to teach strength and balance.
The children are also motivated by this “constrained-induced therapy” to use their weaker muscles to operate the toys and thus gain independence.
In Mason’s case, his father says the volunteers “took out the pedal and replaced it with an oversized button on the steering wheel so Mason can push it and make the riding toy start and stop.” They also installed an electronic governing module, so a parent can control the speed of the toy from the outside, and put in a five-point harness and a head support to keep him stable.
“The biggest thing,” says his father, “is his ability to keep up with his brother.” He can walk, but he can’t walk very fast. He has a hard time balancing so he can’t ride anything like a bicycle, a tricycle or a Big Wheel. His father continued, “Before that, we were limited to just pushing him on some sort of toy in the yard. Now, when we go out as a family and walk and he can keep us with us to a certain degree.”
For Paisley, the modifications were different; the control buttons were moved from the right to the left side. “Most cars and things are on the right side,” explained her mother Laura Queen, “because they expect kids to use the right hands, but, this is not possible at all for her.” A big button was also attached to the steering wheel with Velcro so that she could also use her right arm. A boogie board was put on the back of the seat and attached with Velcro to help Paisley with her posture, since most power wheel toy cars tend to recline to some degree.
Mason and Paisley are just two of hundreds of children with disabilities who have been given true child mobility in the past five years through the GoBabyGo volunteers. After Professor Galloway began the first GoBabyGo program in 2012, the program spread across the country and around the world. There are now more the 60 GBG chapters, in 18 states and 60 foreign countries and Dr. Galloway estimated that together they have modified about 6,000 cars. There is no central organization and each chapter is autonomous, and most of the chapters are affiliated with colleges and universities.
Georgia Tech, for example, ran one GBG program last November. In one day, the work of about 60 O T’s, PT’s and Engineers custom modified a dozen riding toys, each one custom-rebuilt to meet the child’s individual needs. Each project took several hours of work by the team of volunteer and the results were uplifting.
For the mother of 2 year old, Andi Grace Kiser, of Rockmart, Georgia, the smile on her daughter’s face told the real story. Andi has spinal compression problems so she can’t control the pedals to make the car stop. Now, she has a giant adaptive “steering wheel” to do the job. “It’s incredible,” said her mother Haley Kiser. “She has had a rough two years so now just to see her do things that a typical child does and to move freely gives her the independence that she craves.”
Last September the University of Central Florida held a car-building workshop. Its volunteers modified 10 power riding toys in one day, and since the UCF program began, it’s adapted 40 cars for children who needed them.
Last April, when the American Occupational Therapy Association ran a five a half hour institute in Chicago as part of its annual conference, nearly three dozen Occupational Therapists and OT student learned how to adapt the cars, and a dozen children went home with a new motorized car, customized for their individual needs and disabilities.
“This has been fast-moving and gathered momentum on its own and really just tapped into a need that exists in the community,” Dr. Jennifer Tucker, a pediatric specialist, told a local newspaper. “You don’t have to be a health care professional to help them. You can be a business major to help build a car.”
Having a riding toy can truly change a child’s life; Paisley’s mother points out that “when you are one and two and three years old, other kids don’t realize that you have a disability. And, the child may also not realize that something is different with her.” But her mother does. “It was hard for me when she was one year old because she wanted to ride all the power wheel toys when we went to the store, but, she couldn’t.” After she received her own specially modified riding car, “I just remember her riding in the car and trying to wave at all the other kids and she would holler at them. She was so excited and the kids started approaching her more and coming up to her. It made her feel like she fit in and it helped me to realize that ‘hey’ I have this kid that has this disability and could still be normal.”
You can get information on a GoBabyGo chapter near you from the web site of the University of Delaware
Noah D. Gurock is a 5-tim e Emmy Award winning television news producer who has worked for TV stations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Georgia.
Peggy L. Gurock, OTR/L, FAOTA is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist who specializes in evaluations and treatment o f school based-children. Together they have been writing about Occupational Therapy and children with disabilities for more than 30 years.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2017 Magazine