Researchers modify toy car designs to help children with disabilities

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-25 06:58:01|Editor: Hou Qiang
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SAN FRANCISCO, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have come up two new modified toy car designs for children with disabilities, so as to encourage them to explore, play and engage in physical and social activities.

While independent movement has been linked to a wide range of developmental benefits in young children, the new cars were developed under the umbrella of the "Go Baby Go" program at OSU, which provides modified, ride-on toy cars to young children with disabilities so they can move around independently.

"Movement and socialization are very often combined early and continually as children develop," noted Sam Logan, an assistant professor of kinesiology in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and leader of the Go Baby Go program.

A modified version of the original Go Baby Go car, the sit-to-stand car encourages the child to stand up in order to activate the switch that makes the car move. It is designed to help build the physical skills of pulling up to stand, bear weight and balance, while also fostering more interaction with peers.

The "Throw Baby Throw" car, which uses a toy pitching machine to throw foam balls, provides a way for children who have upper extremity limits to participate in throwing, a fundamental motor skill, while also facilitating socialization.

Featured in a technical report published recently in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI,"both of these devices are designed to encourage movement and social interaction, which are critical developmental skills for all young children," Logan was quoted as saying in a news release from OSU on Wednesday.

Modified toy cars are an inexpensive way to help toddlers with mobility issues get around, experts say. Power wheelchairs can be costly and typically aren't available for children until they are older, and may not always be an option for children who are expected to eventually be able to walk.

The goal of the new designs is to find more ways to encourage children with disabilities to move, play and engage with their peers from a young age. "We encourage families, clinicians and teachers to embrace a 'right device, right time, right place' approach that takes into account each child's specific needs and abilities," Logan said. "Whatever typically-developing kids do should be the gold standard for all children, including those with disabilities."