Special Needs Now

This Doctor Is Recreating Popular Toys for Kids with Disabilities

Dr. Galloway's team is modifying popular toys to help kids with mobility issues get moving, and they're making it easy for parents and programs everywhere to join in.

dr cole galloway NationSwell/YouTube
For many kids with mobility issues, playing can be an exercise in frustration. Large and small motor skill delays—and more profound challenges like holding up their heads—can make enjoying toys tough for many kids with special needs. But Cole Galloway, PT, Ph.D., a professor in the department of physical therapy at the University of Delaware, is out to change that.

Dr. Galloway started a research lab in 2000 to study how kids learn to move their bodies. His work included kids with special needs like cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities, and he soon realized that there are no commercially available power wheelchairs for kids younger than 3. Out of frustraton, he and a research assistant bought a labful of ride-on cars and trucks from Toys R Us and set about adapting them for little ones with physical impairments, using simple materials like PVC pipe and nuts and bolts.

From there, he decided to found GoBabyGo. This innovative company's goal is to get kids with mobility issues moving by modifying kids' toys such as Fisher Price's jeeps and cars (many of which are donated by FP's parent company, Mattel). The modified toys are also customized for each child, to provide targeted physical therapy. For example, for one child named Xander with cerebral palsy, Dr. Galloway adapted a four-wheeler so that the boy would have to stand up to power the vehicle forward, thus helping to strengthen his muscles while he drives around.

Many kids are already enjoying the creations from Dr. Galloway and his team, and I love anything that helps kids get moving and makes them feel included in fun. Another aspect of this project that is really exciting is the way the vision of GoBabyGo—"All people exploring their world via independent mobility"— is inspiring others. Since Dr. Galloway's team can't possibly meet all the demand for these toys, he's made the how-to materials available via his website and YouTube videos, and now there are other GoBabyGo sites cropping up around the U.S. and internationally too.

gobabygo car Nation Swell/YouTube

As it says on the GoBabyGo site: "We are excited to announce that the ride-on program...is expanding nationally and globally... [A] few [people] have already started local programs and want others to participate. Although the individuals have varying backgrounds and experiences, they share one common goal—getting our kiddos mobile!"

What a wonderful vision—and one that you can bring to your own community. For more information, check out the list of local contacts in your area!

Jamie Pacton writes middle grade and young adult fiction, drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons. Find her at www.jamiepacton.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @jamiepacton.