A program that gives kids with mobility issues their own wheels to get around in is now being offered at the Alvin Buckwold Child Development Program (ABCDP) in Saskatoon.
“We are one of the first sites in Canada to offer GoBabyGo,” explained Morgan Coflin, Clinical Services Coordinator at the ABDP. The program is funded by a grant from the Royal University Hospital Foundation, thanks to a proposal from the seating team at ABCDP.
GoBabyGo is an American community-based research, design and outreach program that provides modified ride-on cars to small children who experience limited mobility. It introduces independent, power mobility in a fun way for children in their early stages of development.
“It began in 2012 at the University of Delaware, and it’s slowly spread across the U.S.,” explains Coflin. “By using technology, this program gives kids with mobility issues the opportunity to move around on their own and socialize.”
Physical therapists Julie Anne Hilton and Kara Brecht and Occupational therapists Rae Moody and Charlotte Henderson with a GoBabyGo car.
ABCDP physical therapists Julie Anne Hilton and Kara Brecht first heard about the program at a wheelchair and seating conference they attended. Two occupational therapists, Rae Moody and Charlotte Henderson, also heard about GoBabyGO at a conference they attended, and received more information from colleagues in Calgary.
“We wanted to take this one to our centre as an adjunct to our treatment sessions, and as a way of introducing cause and effect for children with developmental delays,” explains Hilton, “as well as potentially introducing power mobility to children at a young age.”
The program launched at ABCDP in June 2016, after the necessary modifications were made to the two cars they received. An engineer donated his time and labour to rewire them, install on/off switches, and attach large adapted switches so that kids could easily activate the car by holding them down.
“We use these cars as part of our therapy appointments, especially for children who do not have any independent mobility or are limited in their developmental skills,” Hilton explains. “Typically, our cars fit children from about 12 months to five years of age.”
According to Hilton, using power mobility for young children is a part of evidence-based practice for reducing the risk of learned helplessness, promoting self-confidence, allowing visual development, and increasing learning and development.
“Mobility is both a right and a fundamental desire for everyone,” says Hilton. “Independent mobility gives these children a way of exploring on their own, allowing for the most ‘normal’ cognitive development while at the same time working on other therapy goals like crawling, walking and communication.”
Physical Therapist Julie Anne Hilton and Seating specialist and Equipment technician Judy Bayda examine one of the cars.
The cars are usually presented to families as something to play with at the end of a therapy session, keeping them a fun, therapeutic tool which increases play options and promotes exploration.
“This program can also act as a very important bridge for children who will require long term power mobility, easing the transition into a power wheelchair, which can be hard to do as the child grows older,” Hilton said. “This program and the goal of introducing early power mobility is an important part of seating and mobility.”
So far, patient experiences with the GoBabyGo cars have been very positive.
“The most amazing thing is to see a child who has no independent mobility, who is unable to roll or crawl or walk, be in the car, figure out how to push the button, and be able to ‘GO’ for the very first time on their own,” says Hilton. “Sometimes it startles them a bit initially, and then the joy and surprise that they experience is quite wonderful to be a part of.”
Often parents or caregivers aren’t sure if their child is pushing the button intentionally, or if they understand it, but after a few stops and starts, are pleased to see that the child is repeating the activity, and making the connection between pushing the button and the movement.
“For most of the little ones that we’ve put into the cars, the experience is fun and very positive,” Hilton notes. “It is also very encouraging to see the learning that goes on from one session to the next, as the child remembers what to do the next time, or gets more consistent with their responses and making the car go.”
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