Children are programmed to want to move, they want to roll, crawl, walk, run and climb, but what about those who can’t experience these joyful milestones? Thanks to new technology, they now get to ride.
GoBabyGo is transforming the way children with movement disabilities experience physical interaction and mobility by putting them in the driver’s seat of their own custom-fitted battery operated car.
The system developed in the US by paediatric researcher and Professor of Physical Therapy at the University of Delware Cole Galloway is coming to Sydney today (May 14) as Therapies For Kids donates its first nine vehicles (eight cars and one quad bike) to some of the children attending the Leichardt centre.
Seven-year-old Kanga Tanaka, who has cerebral palsy and a mild intellectual disability, will be among those given his own set of wheels.
His dad Asato Tanaka said he was excited to see what a difference the car will make to his son who tries to avoid using his walker by crawling.
“Kanga, as much as he is very restricted with his mobility, he just likes to ride stuff – he is a boy,” Asato says.
“Hopefully with this car, he can go around with ease compared to his walker. He has a bit of a hip issue at the moment and he doesn’t really enjoy the walker and so he crawls a lot.
“Hopefully we can get rid of that bad habit.”
For three years Asato has taken his son to Therapies for Kids and says he has found a great advocate for his son’s needs in centre director Debbie Evans.
The centre provides physiotherapy and occupational therapy to more than 200 families each week and, of those, 60 per cent have a disability.
Debbie says watching a child’s face when they first go in a car is always amazing and is one of the reasons she loves what she does.
“Every child smiles or laughs or gestures in some way that they want more ‘go’,” she says.
“Often this is the first time a parent / therapist has seen this child independently mobilise.
“We witnessed one child who, at six years old had never held anything, held onto the steering wheel for 15 minutes and was upset to come out.”
She believes early intervention makes a huge difference.
“If a child has delayed gross-motor development they are not experiencing the same environment as other children, they are not able to be involved in the social play that is so necessary for toddler development,” she says.
“I feel, as a paediatric physiotherapist, we are obliged to offer children as many experiences of early mobility as we can, particularly if we are aware that they will not be on their feet by 12 months exploring their environment.”
As well as donating the vehicles, worth $10,000, Therapies for Kids will also launch GoBabyGo Australia, a charitable trust with an organising board who supports and will continue to introduce new GoBabyGo initiatives into Australia. The charity is working with partners and supporters to bring GoBabyGo to Australian children who will benefit at no cost to their families.
Children are stronger, wiser and more focused than what we some times given them credit for, life may deal them some pretty challenging cards but their inner superheroes always shine through.
(Images via Therapies for Kids)