Oregon State University is the newest hub for “Go Baby Go,” a program that provides modified, ride-on cars to young children with disabilities so they can move around independently.
The modified toy cars give children with mobility disabilities a chance to play and socialize with their peers more easily, says Sam Logan, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and leader of the Go Baby Go project at OSU.
Past research has shown that independent mobility is linked to cognitive, social, motor, language and other developmental benefits in young children, he says. Being pushed in a stroller or being carried from one place to another is fundamentally different from having active control over one’s own exploration, which is where the developmental gains are seen.
“We want to provide that movement experience as early as possible, so they can reap the benefits,” says Sam, whose research focuses on providing technology and training to children with disabilities to promote social mobility. “Beyond mobility and socialization, we hope that the ride-on cars provide children with disabilities a chance to just be a kid.”
There are no commercially available devices for children with mobility issues to get around on their own; and power wheelchairs usually aren’t an option until the children are older. The modified cars provide them independence at a much younger age and at a relatively low cost. The cars run about $100 and the electric switches and other modifications, including seating support and padding, bring the total cost to about $200.
Go Baby Go was founded by Professor Cole Galloway as part of a research project at the University of Delaware but researchers have also trained volunteers in more than 40 communities to modify the cars so more children have access to them. Sam oversaw the program at University of Delaware before he joined the OSU faculty this year and says he knew he wanted to continue the program by adding a Go Baby Go site in Corvallis.
“The overarching mission of the lab is to help as many families as we can,” he says. “Within a year, we’d like everyone in Oregon to know that these cars are available.”
Sam will be leading a car-building workshop on Nov. 11 to show OSU students how to modify the cars. About 15 students in Sam’s motor behavior classes have volunteered to work on the first cars, and Sam’s long-term goal is to establish a student-led OSU club that would host car-building workshops on a regular basis.
He is also looking for families interested in obtaining a car for their child. Cars will be available at the Nov. 11 event, he says. Cars have been modified for children with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and complex medical needs, such as trachea tubes, he says. While most of the cars are modified to operate with hand movements, they also have been modified for head movement, Sam says.
Families interested in a modified car for their child should email Sam at email@example.com. Parents are encouraged to make a donation to help with car costs if they’re able to, but no donation is required to receive a car, Sam says.
“The donations just allow us to keep providing more cars,” Sam says. “We also ask that families who receive cars either pass them on to another child or return them to us when their child outgrows the car.”