Students in Professor Sam Sennott’s Introduction to Special Education class at PSU have found a way to help children in Brazil who have birth defects caused by the Zika virus. The students have set up a fundraiser called Go Baby Go Brazil that will provide specially modified toy cars to very young children who have mobility issues. In Sennott’s class, students study about microcephaly and other conditions, like spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome that delay development and prevent mobility. The students volunteered to build Go Baby Go cars and focused on raising money to provide cars for Brazil as a class project.
Go Baby Go is an emerging movement that began at the University of Delaware and is spreading across the country. The students participated in a local Go Baby Go build event in June. Volunteers at the event are trained to modify the toy cars that are individually customized to fit children as young as six months old. The June build event was directed by Portland physical therapist Bethany Sloane, along with the coordinator of Go Baby Go Oregon, Sam Logan. Eight cars were assembled at that event, and Sloane hopes to have a build event each month as money becomes available.
Sennott’s students decided to raise money for the cars for children in Brazil because they had learned about the impact of the Zika virus on babies in that country.
When toddlers and cars are united, the result is life-changing. “When you see them take off for the first time, it’s really amazing,” said PSU student Hannah Wilson. “There are tears when the parents and grandparents see them go. It’s no longer about their limitations,” she said, “but about what’s possible.”
The Go Baby Go Brazil fund will support cars specifically for children in Brazil. Wilson, who has family in Brazil, is leading the fundraising efforts in Portland. “Electronics in Brazil are much more expensive than what you can buy in America,” she said. “This becomes a huge barrier to families.” With a Go Baby Go car, a child can easily explore the world, interact socially, and even chase a sibling around.
Sennott believes that many things are possible for these children through research-based therapeutic supports. In fact, it’s the parents whose eyes are opened through this process. “It’s a challenging disability,” said Sennott, “but let’s look at what’s possible and what else they can do through therapy. Most importantly,” he said, “Go Baby Go cars let kids be kids. It changes the dynamic from viewing kids with limitations to viewing kids who may have brighter futures because of new possibilities.”
Sennott is director of the PSU Universal Design Lab (uLab) in the Graduate School of Education. The uLab conducts research and develops assistive technologies for individuals who have profound disabilities.
To contribute to the Go Baby Go Brazil project, visit the crowdfunding site. To learn more about the uLab, contact the Special Education Department in the Graduate School of Education, 503-725-4619.
Go Baby Go cars were initially developed by Professor Cole Galloway at the University of Delaware. Each vehicle costs around $200 to build, but most of that is the initial cost of the toy car. The Go Baby Go cars are far less expensive than mini motorized wheelchairs that can cost thousands. Children can easily operate the cars, which stimulates motor skills, learning, and social development, and gives them hope for a better future.
About Go Baby Go Oregon
Go Baby Go (GBG) is a community-based outreach program that works with families, clinicians and industry to provide pediatric equipment to children with disabilities. The primary mission of GBG is to provide modified ride-on cars to these children to use as a powered mobility device for fun, function, and exploration. GBG was founded by Dr. Cole Galloway, at the University of Delaware. Sam Logan, completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship with Galloway during the initial two years of GBG and brought GBG to Oregon State University in 2014. Since then, GBG Oregon was formed as an equal partnership between Logan with Oregon State University, Bethany Sloane, with Oregon Health and Science University, and Crystal Bridges. Significant funding contributions have been received from the Women’s Giving Circle at OSO and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation.