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'Power Wheels' for kids with disabilities

Posted at 5:00 PM, Mar 10, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS – It's a story you'll see only here on RTV6, and at the center of it is a toy you might have asked your parents to give you for Christmas once upon a time.

In Wayne Township, second-grade student Ashlynn Martin has always relied on help to get around North Wayne Elementary School’s hallways.

Kids her age are typically up walking and running, but she isn’t able to do that. This school year was a game-changer though.

Now she can move independently after getting introduced to her new vehicle.

And it’s not for fun: It’s for therapy.

Doctoral students from Indiana University adapted the Power-Wheel-like device just for her to challenge her physically.

The students are part of IU’s chapter of a national group, called “Go Baby Go.” It redesigns small electric cars for children with disabilities. Together with IU engineering students, they spent a semester making this new tool possible.

“In order to get the vehicle to go, we have two buttons, so that works on hand strength,” Physical therapy doctorate student Andy Wiseman said. “We have a backrest on it that is a ‘kill switch.’ If she slouches, it cuts the power to the vehicle – it stops running.”

The motorized vehicle works on Ashlynn’s grip and her core strength. It all makes the daily task of physical therapy much more enjoyable.

“Something like this gives a child who is in therapy for a really long time that change of pace that they need to get motivated,” Wayne Township physical therapist Sara Davis said.

The IU students who designed it say the project motivates them, too: To design more of them for children just like Ashlynn.

“To see her not only smile, but laugh and giggle – to see the progress that has happened with her… I’ve been touched in so many ways by this,” Physical therapy doctorate student Michael Mohr said. “It worked, and it worked well, and she loves it. And it just feels good. (It) feels really good.”

The IU students are working on their third adapted Power Wheel right now for a Wayne Township student. They’re set to be recognized at an event at the district’s “Dare To Dream” awards.

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