Physical therapy students put children with developmental disorders in the driver’s seat

Physical therapy students at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis are making a difference in the lives of children with developmental disorders.

Andrew Wiseman and Michael Mohr established the GoBabyGo@IU student organization in 2015, modeled after a GoBabyGo program initially founded in 2006 by University of Delaware professor Cole Galloway to provide affordable mobility devices for children with physical and developmental disorders. 

In developing GoBabyGo at IUPUI, Wiseman and Mohr decided they wanted to do more than provide general mobility. They incorporate physical therapy concepts that assist in the treatment of patients, setting the program apart from other GoBabyGo programs.

"The goal of this program is to provide children with movement deficits, who otherwise would not be able to explore their environment, the opportunity to do so through adaptive mobility. The chance to control their mobility and socialize with peers is an extremely valuable opportunity for these children. I am so proud of our physical therapy students for initiating this wonderful program and for the effective collaboration developed with the School of Engineering. It is truly a great team effort," said Peter Altenburger, the GoBabyGo faculty advisor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Working with Sara Davis, an adjunct faculty member in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, GoBabyGo identified children in the Wayne Township school district to receive a GoBabyGo modified vehicle. These patients are ages 7 to 9 and have a supportive family structure that allows the vehicles to go home with the children. Since it was established, GoBabyGo@IU has been able to work with three patients and their families within the Wayne Township school corporation.

The student organization recently received the 2016 Dare to Dream Community Service Award from Wayne Township schools.

After patients are identified, GoBabyGo@IU works with School of Engineering and Technology students at IUPUI to modify the vehicles to meet the needs of each child. It takes approximately a semester to build the modifications, and then patients and their families are trained to use and maintain the adapted vehicle.

According to Wiseman and Mohr, not only are the vehicles highly effective in providing the patient with a pathway to independent mobility, but they also act as an incentive for the youngsters to want to use the vehicle. Because the base of the vehicle is a children's motorized toy, it feels more like playing than working through a grueling physical therapy session. The children have fun interacting with modifications designed to improve their functioning.

The GoBabyGo@IU student organization plans to implement additional programming such as social events for the patients and their families, providing time for all of the participating children to play together.

"GoBabyGo is an opportunity for students to build and learn from interprofessional relationships; give back to the community; and increase our knowledge and ability to give fun, skillful and cost-effective treatment to a pediatric population," Wiseman said.

Donations to the GoBabyGo@IU organization can be made online and are used to purchase materials needed to produce modified vehicles for the patients.