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Students design electric toy cars to help special-needs children move and play

  • August 02, 2018
Each car is customized to fit the needs of the child.

go baby 2 streamPhysical therapy and engineering students, along with students from Samford University and a physical therapist from Children's of Alabama work together with a recipient's parents to modify the car to meet their child's needs.Children with disabilities that may make it difficult for them to stand or walk on their own are getting a chance to be mobile and independent, thanks to students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Members of the Go Baby Go Birmingham chapter will spend Saturday modifying electric toy cars into personalized vehicles for young children with various conditions, such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. The volunteers are physical therapy, occupational therapy and engineering students from UAB. Physical therapy students from Samford University are also contributing.

Their goal is to make mobility easier for the children.

“Studies show that a developing child gets 500 hours of play per year,” said Adair Fuller, a Doctor of Physical Therapy student at UAB. “Children with disabilities get about 100 hours of play per year. This will help them be able to keep up with and interact with other children, which will help with their cognitive and social development.”

go baby vThe toy cars will help children be independent, explore their own environments and play with their peers. Each car is customized to fit the needs of the child. The students purchase the toy cars and then modify them using plastic pipes, foam rollers, kick boards and other items to make sure the child is safe and comfortable. An electrician, who is also a UAB graduate, checks the car to make sure the electrical wiring is safe.

“One important aspect of childhood development and motor development is that children will interact with their peers, for example, playing on the playground with other children rather than being carried or pushed by someone else,” said Jennifer Christy, Ph.D., a pediatric physical therapist and the director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at UAB. “These cars allow them to have more parallel play with their peers and independently explore their environment, which helps children develop their play skills and their curiosity.”

Five children and their families will work with the students and then take the cars home at the end of the workshop.

The workshop will be held Saturday, Aug. 4, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the UAB School of Health Professions, 1716 Ninth Ave. South, Birmingham, Alabama.

Find out more about Go Baby Go or to become involved with the Birmingham chapter.