For those of you that know me, you know that I like to be the person working behind the scenes, making things work. I do not like to be front and center, or have attention drawn to me. I think that is why it is so hard to update this blog. But sometimes, when you are passionate about something, you have to go outside your comfort zone…….This spring, Early Wheels and one of my EPICS UTD teams got invited to be part of the interactive guest experience before the TEDx talks in Plano. Apparently they had read an article about one of my UTD teams, and were impressed. The article is below as well (hopefully I have figured out how to add it .) I was blessed to talk with many people, and display the work that Early Wheels has been able to do thru faithful supporters. When I got home, I realized I had not shared the article - I think they did a pretty good job!
This week I had the privilege to follow up with a sweet girl that I had placed in a little car driven by a joystick. At her “eval” this fall, she flat refused to trial a power wheelchair, but was willing to sit in my cars. I first gave her a big switch to press, and quickly she figured out that if she pressed it, the car would move forward. We then progressed to several switches, each controlling a different direction for the chair to go. Finally, we tried a joystick, and she quickly took off driving the car down the hall. But since she couldn’t demonstrate being able to drive or even tolerate sitting in the power chair, she was assessed instead for a manual wheelchair.
I sent her home with a little car to drive inside and promised the parents I would be getting a car for outside soon. The car for outside would have a wider base, and be closer to an actual power wheelchair. Yesterday, before I could even get her fastened into the new car, she was reaching for the joystick to take off. She did not mind that it was higher up, or drive faster.
On a hunch, the staff agreed to let her trial a power chair that they had there (the same one that she cried in before). This time she took off, and wanted to explore the functions of all the buttons! She will have a formal power wheelchair eval soon, and hopefully, she will get her power chair right after she turns 3.
The whole goal of Early Wheels is to give kids movement experiences when they don’t normally get that chance. As you can tell by the size of the power chair, it is much bigger than the sweet girl and pretty intimidating. But I really feel that being able to ease into it with vehicles much more her size has helped her to be able to adjust to being in the big power chair.
This year has literally flown by- here are some highlights of a pretty busy year. In case you do not see the picture at the bottom of this page, this summer I am partnering with Parish Episcopal. There will be a week long summer camp where students will get to learn not only to program, but build cars for some lucky kiddos!
Last week, I was blessed to give a sweet kiddo one of the booster scooters. I had the pleasure of meeting his family during his therapy session a few weeks ago. He sat in one of my trial scooters, and together, with the parents and therapist, we figured out what he would need. He played with the wheels, moving them forward and back, and by the end of the trial, was able to move a few feet.
So a booster scooter was made with a basket for his vent, a removable push handle for his parents (which now doubles as a place to hang his pulse oximeter), shoulder straps, a high seat belt, and a tray. My hope was that he would be able to push the scooter more than the trial. As always, my expectations were blown away. Not only was he able to wheel across the room, turn on a dime, and come to his parents when they called him, he did this with his 10 pound vent sitting in the basket behind him!
Here is an article from that day- while every day is not a success, I am so thankful for days like these!
The link is also on the Early Wheels facebook page!
The past 7 days have been a whirlwind of activity for Early Wheels. I have been blessed by some amazing families families and therapist's, and feel the need to share! My amazing 7 days started with Walmart contacting me that one of my local stores had selected Early Wheels as a Community Partner, and we had received a grant. I am so thankful for the funds to buy much needed cars and seats! Then, I went out to do an assessment on a sweetie. He wanted no part of any of my cars, but since the therapist and I both thought he would do well with a joystick vehicle, we decided to leave one for practice. Within 5 minutes of leaving the house, his mom had sent a video showing him driving across the room! While the picture is grainy, his smile pretty much says it all....
Much has happened over the past year.
Last December, I announced, that I was going to start a mobility ministry to provide kids with disabilities ride on toys, so they would get to experience independent mobility. Since then, a lot has happened.
In January and February, I became an “official” not-for-profit and figured out how to make a web page. The UTD EPICS program took me on as a several semester project to help me make a user friendly motor controller that could be used on many ride on cars. I also was blessed to deliver my first booster scooter to a sweetie at Our Children’s House.
In March and April, I hired a sweet tutor at UTD to teach me how to program on Arduino. I learned more about wiring , amps, watts, relays, and fuses than I care to admit! And I continued to build both booster scooters and battery powered ride on cars with various homemade switches.
In May and June I started giving out more complicated ride on cars, which were driven with joysticks, as well as more booster scooters. By the end of June, programming was complete for an analog joystick, as well as speed controller, and I was soon trialing the cars with several kids.
Since July, it has been somewhat of a whirlwind! Overall, I have given out 25 vehicles, thru manual booster scooters, to simple switch vehicles, to more complicated vehicles with alternative controls. I have been blessed to meet some amazing families and have learned so much in the process:
· When motivated, a child will activate a switch in any way possible- from their hands, to their heads, and even their bellies
· Under 12 months is not too early to use a joystick, and use it well
· Sometimes low tech is better than high tech- so many kids shocked their parents by being able to propel booster scooters
· Most 12 volt ride on cars will not fit thru a standard household door and are best used outside
· Toddler bike carriers and swing seats make great supportive seating in a ride on car
As the year comes to a close, I am excited about the chance to continue to learn, and further meet amazing kids that would like to move independently. I will be looking for people to continue to partner with me: from financial support; to building cars; to referring sweet kiddos. If you would like to help, please let me know!
Early Wheels is a motor ministry to children with disabilities. Many kids with disabilities rely on adults to provide motor experiences for them, as they cannot move independently. As a result, these kids are lagging behind their peers developmentally, and some never catch up. The purpose of Early Wheels is simple: To provide independent motor opportunities to children with disabilities, targeting the age 0-4 year old.
Early Wheels will provide kids with a way to move. Early Wheels will come to a therapy or doctor appointment with the child to help determine what toy will need to be used, and what modifications need to be made. Then the toy will be made free of charge to the child. Early Wheels will consult with parents directly to help them figure out safe ways to modify currently owned toys. Early Wheels will also provide support to therapists, providing loaner toys to trial with clients. All toys are made from items found in stores and thrift stores, not in medical supply stores, so they can easily and inexpensively be replicated.
Phase 1 began February, 2017. We provide movement opportunities for kids that have the strength in their legs or arms to self propel, but may need modifications thru a more supportive seating system, or a smaller device. Examples of this are modified ride on toys that are foot propelled, as well as booster seat scooters.
Any Booster seat can become a booster scooter!
Phase 2 began in April, 2017. We provide basic motorized toys that need to be simply modified to be driven safely. It would include moving a switch to make the toy run, adding safety straps, or a more supportive seat.
Phase 3 began summer of 2017. We take more complex motorized toys and adapt the speed, input for driving (single switch, multiple switches, joystick), as well as the seat to give the child support when driving. An example could be like these: