Adaptive toys, equipment helping special needs children gain independence

Adaptive toys, equipment helping special needs children gain independence

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Before Go Baby Go, 4-year-old Anna Degrandis was very limited in where and how she could play.

"She loves to be with other kids. It breaks my heart because she wants to be a part of everything. She wants to be outside playing," said her mother, Sarah Degrandis.

Born with an extremely rare genetic disorder, she has significant speech and developmental delays that hold her back. But her mom says the equipment she is exposed to has been a God send.

"She just starts crying with laughter -- very excited. I just love to see that she is able to move around and do things that she can't do..to reach all her toys and play," she said.

A harness system provides a hands-free ways for kids to move as they naturally would. Madalynn Wendland, of Go Baby Go, says this new found mobility is a catalyst.

"It really allows the child to independently explore, which promotes all other areas of development," Wendland said. "So increasing language skills (and) increasing cognition by being able to run into something and asking, 'Mom, what is this?'"

But this time of year, the real pay off is on four wheels. The program takes off-the-shelf power wheels and adapts them with bigger buttons -- on the steering wheel, head, or arm rest -- specifically tailored to the special child who will ride it. Wendland says these tools give the kids an independence they've never had.

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"When the kids come in and see the harness system, they start talking and laughing. They want to get in to the harness because they know what freedom it actually gives them," Wendland said.

The cars are built during workshops held at Cleveland State, and run about $250 to buy. They adapt specifically to each special child.

"Every little moment that you see something good happening is wonderful," said Sarah Degrandis.

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