Physical therapy students create cars for children with developmental disorders

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A group of students in Indiana University’s Physical Therapy Doctoral Program are putting kids in the driver’s seat of some new technology.

The kids have developmental disorders and can’t get around and play like other kids do.

8-year-old Ashlynn Martin found independence after receiving her Power Wheels-like vehicle that was especially made for her.

It’s part of the GoBabyGo@IU student organization. It’s a joint effort from the physical therapy students who take their ideas to the engineering department to reconfigure the cars.

“And that’s when we have this great conversation how we turn our physical goals into practical engineering modifications to these vehicles,” said Andrew Wiseman, physical therapy doctorate student.

The cars are made to fit the child’s physical therapy needs and strengthen them in areas they struggle with.

“We made the vehicle so that she has to lean forward in order to not turn the engine of the vehicle off. So she has to lean forward she has to sit up tall and activate both of the switches in order to make the vehicle go,” said Sara David, Wayne Township physical therapist.

Ashlynn is missing portions of a chromosome. She can’t walk or talk. But now she can drive. Ashlynn has had her new wheels for a year. When she first started she couldn’t even sit up on her own. Progression that has brought her parents so much joy.

“She’s able to get around now in a way that she wasn’t before. It’s fun for her it’s helping to improve her hand eye skills. It’s very therapeutic,” said Todd Martin, Ashlynn’s father.

The students have made rides for three kids so far and now they’re looking to take the program to the next level.

“Once the child has a vehicle we have a time and a day set aside once a month, twice a month to where all the children that have a vehicle can actually come in and play together,” said Michael Mohr, physical therapy doctorate student.

Families don’t have to pay for the cars. The students continue to raise funds to make even more cars. The vehicles take an entire semester to complete.

Donations can be made online and all proceeds are used to purchase materials for the modified vehicles.