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Kids with Disabilities Receive Special Motorized Cars from Northwestern Students

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Children car

Children love to drive in little toy cars when they’re young as they dream of finally getting their license and feeling the engine give them a rush of excitement that a small battery or their little feet couldn’t possibly match. Unfortunately, some children with disabilities are unable to experience that joy of driving a motorized car around for various reasons. However, Northwestern University students have worked hard to make that a possibility for some of them.


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Engineering and physical therapy students at Northwestern University teamed up to create modified motorized cars for kids who find it difficult to independently stand or walk. This collaboration between the Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering gave children a chance to move unlike ever before and a sense of independence that you can only get behind a wheel.

Physical therapists and various organizations, such as Lurie Children’s Hospital, referred the five kids who received the modified cars to the class, where the students transformed cars to match each child’s cognitive and physical abilities.

Two-year-old Spencer Oswald has come a long way since he started doing therapy. Though he wasn’t crawling at the age of 6 months and couldn’t sit up on his own when he was one, he is now able to sit in his shiny black car and drive around, using his chest to lean against a large button on the steering wheel. Additional modifications to Spencer’s car included adding a harness and moving the steering wheel closer, as well as flame stickers on the side of his car that Spencer added himself.

As much fun and fulfillment these cars provided the kids, they were also financially and medically important for some families. Stevie Browning, diagnosed with type 1 spinal muscular atrophy, was unable to get a motorized wheelchair from his Medicaid health insurance due to the two-year-old’s supposed inability to understand the concept of cause and effect. With a modified car in Stevie’s hands now, his mom hopes that the insurance company will see that if he can drive this car with a joystick, he can also drive a wheelchair.

These modified, personalized cars are critical in giving these kids freedom and a sense of inclusion. As they drove around an obstacle course laid out with bubble wrap, pool noodles, and tape measures in a Northwestern University office on Saturday, the children experienced something that was previously just a dream to them.

The days of watching other kids play are over, as these five children can now drive up and join in on the fun, thanks to the hard work of Northwestern students. Getting your first car can be life-changing, and that is certainly the case here.


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Sources: Chicago Tribune