HOUSTON — Local children with special needs recently got some cool, customized cars for exploring the world around them thanks to a collaboration between Texas Woman’s University and Texas A&M EnMed (engineering and medicine).
Occupational therapy and nursing students from TWU’s Houston campus partnered with students from EnMed to provide electric ride-on vehicles for some children with special needs in the Houston community. The project was part of the national Go Baby Go program.
Francie Baxter (Occupational Therapy) said she first learned of the program from an EnMed associate dean who was seeking pediatric clinical contacts. When EnMed students reached out to her about participating in the program, Baxter approached her Texas Woman’s colleagues and interest in a collaboration grew.
The first event scheduled was an “evaluation day,” with Houston faculty members Jerilyn Callen (Occupational Therapy) and Suzanne Scheller (Nursing) each bringing 10 to 12 students to complete health, motor skills and wheelchair assessments. The findings were shared with the EnMed students to customize the vehicles for each child’s special needs.
The TWU and EnMed students built seven fully customized cars during the Go Baby Go “build day,” which took place March 26.
According to Go Baby Go, putting young children with disabilities “in the driver’s seat” enables them to move around independently and play and socialize with their peers. That, in turn, can benefit cognitive and motor skill development.
Baxter said collaborative projects such as this also offer many benefits to university students, including “learning how different disciplines think and process information, what information is important to other disciplines, having an opportunity to do hands-on evaluations in a safe environment, problem-solving creative solutions for the benefit of the client, and interacting with faculty outside of the classroom in ways that reinforce learning.”
According to Callen, students noted additional benefits in the feedback they provided at the end of the project.
“Students expressed that this was an incredibly valuable interprofessional experience that also gave them an opportunity to educate both their EnMed peers and families on what OT is, does, and how we have limitless opportunities to grow our presence,” Callen said. “Several students said this experience has been the highlight of their OT school experience thus far.”
Amy Parker, student coordinator for the project, said, “It was rewarding to see our suggestions for car modifications come to fruition and then be able to make last-minute adjustments that were effective and meaningful for the clients and their caregivers.” Parker, who is pursuing the Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree at TWU Houston, added, “Personally, it was incredibly gratifying to watch the children leave with their custom cars and smiles on their faces.”
By Karen Garcia
Marketing & Communication