More than half a dozen Oregon children have a shiny new set of wheels – and new freedom – thanks to a program aimed at improving motor, physical, social and cognitive skills in children with disabilities.
Led by College of Public Health and Human Sciences Assistant Professor Sam Logan, Go Baby Go provides a unique way for children ages six months to three to move on their own, play and socialize with their peers and gain independence – despite any disability.
“I’m trying not to cry, really, it’s thrilling considering my daughter, we weren’t even sure she was going to make it, and this is thrilling that she is able to drive a car and go somewhere,” says mom Sarah Smith. “It’s thrilling because she just can’t be mobile without something like this.”
“It was so amazing to see her take off and do something that a normal child would do,” says mom Kara Kelley.
Sam and a volunteer team of undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and parents assembled off-the-shelf ride-on cars and modified them to meet the needs of children with disabilities such as Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. The cars each cost about $200 to make and are donated to families in need.
The group modified the activation switch, making it easy to press with a large surface area for contact. They also used PVC pipe, pool fun noodles and cartoon-themed kickboards to modify a seat, giving children extra support needed to be safe while driving the car.
“It’s so cool and it’s exactly what I want to do because I want to work with kids with special needs,” says Exercise and Sport Science student Erika Cooley. “I think helping them gain independence is so, so awesome.”
Sam became interested in Go Baby Go during a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Delaware working under Professor Cole Calloway, who began the program.
It took Sam only a few months after joining Oregon State in September 2014 to have his first set of Go Baby Go ride-on cars available to local families – making Oregon State one of nearly 40 international Go Baby Go sites.
“One of the things that drew me here as faculty was the emphasis on public health, physical activity and also a very strong emphasis on disability studies,” Sam says. “Those are all areas that the College of Public Health and Human Sciences really focuses on, and it was a really great fit for myself and the research that I do, but also very specifically this program, and it was just a great opportunity to bring it to the Northwest.”
“It was just absolutely amazing,” Kara says. “I wish there were more programs out there like this to modify things for special needs children.”
Although currently there are not any commercially available devices for young children with mobility issues to use as early power, Sam hopes to expand his research and create even more opportunities in the near future.
“We’re currently working with industry partners to try to convince them with our research that there really is a need for a commercially available device that will fill that gap, and so we’re hopeful that will be happening soon.”
“I think this program is wonderful and it’s going to affect a lot of people in a lot of different ways,” Kara says. “It has touched us, definitely. I started tearing up when I first saw her go, it was great.”
Families interested in a modified Go Baby Go car can email Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org. The cars are free, but donations are encouraged.
Watch the video above to hear more from Sam and parents – and see for yourself how the Go Baby Go cars positively impact the lives of young children with special needs. View the slideshow below.