Oregon State University is the newest hub for “Go Baby Go,” a program that provides modified, ride-on cars to young children with disabilities so they can move around independently.
The modified toy cars give children with mobility disabilities a chance to play and socialize with their peers more easily, said Dr. Sam Logan, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University and leader of the Go Baby Go project at OSU.
Past research has shown that independent mobility is linked to cognitive, social, motor, language, and other developmental benefits in young children, he said. Being pushed in a stroller or being carried from one place to another is fundamentally different from having active control over one’s own exploration, which is where the developmental gains are seen.
“We want to provide that movement experience as early as possible, so they can reap the benefits,” said Dr. Logan, whose research focuses on providing technology and training to children with disabilities to promote social mobility. “Beyond mobility and socialization, we hope that the ride-on cars provide children with disabilities a chance to just be a kid.”
There are no commercially available devices for children with mobility issues to get around on their own; and power wheelchairs usually are not an option until the children are older. The modified cars provide them independence at a much younger age and at a relatively low cost. The cars run about $100 and the electric switches and other modifications, including seating support and padding, bring the total cost to about $200.
Go Baby Go was founded by Professor Cole Galloway as part of a research project at the University of Delaware but researchers have also trained volunteers in more than 40 communities to modify the cars so more children have access to them. Dr. Logan oversaw the program at University of Delaware before he joined the OSU faculty this year and said he knew he wanted to continue the program by adding a Go Baby Go site in Corvallis.
“The overarching mission of the lab is to help as many families as we can,” he said. “Within a year, we would like everyone in Oregon to know that these cars are available.”