Image: A child using a “Sit-to-Stand” Go Baby Go car to move around (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University).
A new study describes how two modified toy car designs for children with disabilities can encourage them to further explore, play, and engage in physical and social activities.
The new toy cars were developed under the Go Baby Go program at Oregon State University (OSU, Corvallis, USA), launched in order to provide young children with disabilities the ability to move around independently. The cars are based on commercially available, battery-operated, ride-on cars that are adapted using common materials such as PVC piping, swimming kickboards, fun noodles, and Velcro, which are used to build a custom seating system that provides optimum support for each child.
The “Sit-to-Stand” car is a modified version of the original Go Baby Go car, which was designed for children who may or are expected to walk eventually, but their walking is delayed. It includes a large, easy-to-press activation switch that is placed on the steering wheel with a large surface area that turns on at the slightest touch, allowing easier activation for children with disabilities. The goal is to encourage the physical skills of pulling up to stand, bear weight and balance, while also fostering more interaction with peers.
The “Throw Baby Throw” car uses a modified commercially available, toy-based, ball pitching machine to throw foam balls, with the goal of providing a simpler way for children who have upper extremity limits to participate in throwing, which is not only a fundamental motor skill, but also facilitates socialization. The overarching goal of both new car designs is to find more ways to encourage children with disabilities to move, play, and engage with their peers from a young age. The two new car designs were featured in a technical report published on March 2017 in the journal, Frontiers in Robotics and AI.
“Both of these devices are designed to encourage movement and social interaction, which are critical developmental skills for all young children. Movement and socialization are very often combined early and continually as children develop,” said lead author kinesiologist Sam Logan, leader of the OSU Go Baby Go program. “We encourage families, clinicians and teachers to embrace a 'right device, right time, right place' approach that takes into account each child's specific needs and abilities. Whatever typically-developing kids do should be the gold standard for all children, including those with disabilities.”
Self-directed mobility is defined as a movement initiated by an individual, and may include independent locomotion such as walking, the use of mobility technology such as gait trainers, standers, or the use of powered mobility devices including motorized wheelchairs, battery-operated ride-on toy cars, or other similar devices. Children without disabilities experience developmental gains in cognition, language, and social skills as a result of the onset of independent locomotion that occurs between 10 and 14 months of age.
Oregon State University