Medical Moment: Adaptive toy cars for kids with mobility impairments

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 5:44 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

(WNDU) - From cerebral palsy to Down syndrome, to other certain birth defects, there are countless conditions that may cause limited mobility in children.

They can also prevent kids from playing with their friends! But now, a nationwide program is getting these kids moving and steering a path to their success.

Two-year-old Theodore Sherrill is all about playtime.

“He loves to play,” said Suzanne Sherill, Theodore’s mom. “He loves to do just what everybody else his age loves to do.”

Which is not always easy since Theodore has Down syndrome.

“The kids with special needs are usually delayed in how they can move,” said Amber Yampolsky, a physical therapist at Nemours Children’s Hospital. “We want to try to give them the ability to move either on time or at least earlier than they would if we kind of waited for their development to progress.”

And that is the mission of “Go Baby Go,” a program designed to build adaptive toy cars to get kids with mobility impairments moving.

“We believe that mobility is a human right,” said Jennifer Tucker, a clinical associate professor at the University of Central Florida.

“A lot of kids with special needs don’t have the ability to do the foot pedals or to do the steering, so we’re able to adapt the cars so that they just have a button on them. And the kids, even with a very limited amount of mobility, are able to push that button and make the car go,” Yampolsky explained.

This is the first time three-year-old Haddie Ortiz, who had mild cerebral palsy, gets to ride in her car.

“She’s excited,” said Rachel Ortiz, Haddie’s mom. “I think it’s one of those things she is going to have control over something that is usually hard for her.”

The same is true for Theodore, who is not letting anything put the brakes on his fun.

“He doesn’t want to be left out just because he is rocking an extra chromosome,” Suzanne Sherrill said.

“That day isn’t about anything that their child cannot do, it’s about everything their child can do,” Tucker said.

After 10 years of effort, medical researchers at Columbia University have developed a very fast and cheap way to detect the extra or missing chromosomes that most often cause miscarriages or severe birth defects.

The method takes less than two hours using a palm-size device and costs $200 per use. With current testing procedures, women can end up paying $1,000 to $2,000, often out of pocket.

The technique, developed by Dr. Zev Williams, director of the Columbia University Fertility Center, and his colleagues, uses cells and tissues obtained from existing prenatal screening procedures of embryos and fetuses, or tissue obtained after miscarriages.

Its key advantage is that the cells or tissue do not have to be sent to a testing lab — the analysis can be done in the same office that obtained the material, and results are ready in hours rather than days or weeks.