In 2009, Mobility Management published the story of Andrew Peffley, a 2-year-old with spina bifida who was one of the stars of a new University of Delaware early-intervention mobility study using specially designed power wheelchairs.
The study included children who, like Andrew, were expected to eventually learn to walk, but at later ages compared to typically developing children. Therefore, the children in the study would have experienced delayed independent mobility
if not for the power chair intervention.
James C. “Cole” Galloway, Ph.D., PT, one of the study’s leaders, noted that the project began working with infants as young as 6 months old, “and it’s in a small robot-enhanced device. That’s new in that nobody’s really putting 6-month-olds into power mobility for kids who have severe mobility problems or kids who have delayed mobility. They’re going to walk, but their parents and/or educators and/or therapists want them to have a boost in exploration right now to see if they can further advance their drive for mobility.”
The Acceleration of Go Baby Go
Almost eight years later, that idea — that giving independent mobility to very young children can help make the most of these critical early years — has spawned Go Baby Go programs at universities and rehabilitation facilities around the country.
Go Baby Go begins with a power ride-on
toy — an inexpensive vehicle often resembling an actual car or a Disney cartoon character that can be purchased at most toy stores. Basic positioning support can be provided by strategically placed PVC pipes and cut-up pool noodles, and controls can be modified so children can drive via hand controls, using systems that closely resemble power wheelchair switches. The vehicles can be modified within a day and cost just a few hundred dollars each.
What started as a University of Delaware project has been adopted by other schools and service groups across the United States and has even crossed international lines. The Go Baby Go Web site (http://sites.udel.edu/gobabygo/) currently shows more than 40 programs and has a list of regional United States contacts (as well as contacts in Canada, Israel, Poland, New Zealand and Spain) for educators and clinicians looking for information on how to start their own local versions of Go Baby Go.
What began with a handful of kids and a few robotic cars is now in high gear, enabling more young children to move at earlier ages.
As Galloway told MM in 2009, “If you really want to see mobility in action, have someone shadow what a typical 2- or 3-year-old does in a day. Do everything they do. That’s why they have to have a nap, that’s why they eat 16 times a day. Then the idea of waiting three or four years for your first power mobility, your first vehicle of exploration…you’re hundreds of thousands of social interactions behind.”