Go Baby Go: PC Occupational Therapy Team Adapts Ride-On Toy Cars to Support Children with Special Needs

June 9, 2024

Together with advisors, members of the community and academic partners, a group of students from the PC OTD program added new switches, seat rests, harnesses and lap belts to help give independence to children with limited mobility.

There is no denying the power of play in child development.That is exactly what students and faculty from the Presbyterian College Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program(PC OTD) leaned into when modifying two ride-on toy cars for local children with special needs, giving them more independent mobility and a chance to play and socialize with their peers more easily.This spring, five students and two faculty members from PC OTD partnered with academic partners and members of the community to participate in Go Baby Go, an international program that adapts ride-on toy cars for children with special needs. Power wheelchairs cost thousands of dollars and usually aren’t an option until children are older. Modified ride-on cars provide independence at a much younger age and at a relatively low cost.

The Go Baby Go build at PC was organized and overseen by Courtney Addison, OTD, OTR/L, Assistant Professor and Capstone Coordinator, and Allie Turner, OTD, OTR/L, Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and Assistant Professor. Students Nubia Vazquez Arana (Class of 2025, Cohort 3), Amy Clark (Class of 2026, Cohort 4), Alycea Graham (Class of 2025, Cohort 3), Jaymie Hughes (Class of 2024, Cohort 2) and Graceanna Sessions (Class of 2025, Cohort 3) all volunteered their time to learn how to adapt the vehicles to serve the specific needs of the two local children who had been identified by clinical partners as good candidates for the cars.

The two cars were donated by Kay and Danny Ciganovic who started “Matthew’s Motors” after their son benefited from a Go Baby Go vehicle. The PC team added new switches, seat rests, harnesses and lap belts to help increase safety and give more opportunity for mobility. One of the recipients will ride the car in a parade at the South Carolina Poultry Festival in Batesburg-Leesville.

In addition to the cars, the team also built multiple toys with switches that can be played with by children of all abilities. The toys will be distributed to local pediatric clinics.

“Our students were actively involved in the build with guidance on use of tools and understanding of different conditions to make the necessary modifications for the vehicles and the toys,” says Turner. “The students are able to take this knowledge and teach others in the future how to make cost-effective adaptations that will allow more children to engage in their occupation of play.”

Other contributors in the PC Go Baby Go build included Dr. Mel Goodwin with Laing Middle School; Jessica Newton, OTR/L ppOTD Candidate of the Newberry Hospital Stepping Stones Clinic; Dr. Aaron Turner, Assistant Professor Post Harvest Engineering, Clemson University; Captain Michael Addison, Clinton Police Department; and student Boone Hitch from Daniel High School.

“We are already seeing the benefit from our therapists in our communities using the adapted switch toys with their clients to help them play,” says Turner. “We can only imagine the opportunity of continuing our Outrageous service efforts to serve our community and teach the future generation of OTs to be servant leaders who are great critical thinkers with great clinical reasoning skills.”

To learn more about the Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program at PC, visit the program website.