University of Vermont

St. Albans Boy Gets Gift of Mobility

CDCI's I-Team and CVU partnered once again to remodel adapted power toy for early mobility

After the coverage of a young child from the Northeast Kingdom receiving an adapted power toy car went viral, the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion is proud to share that a second child has received the gift of independent mobility with help from Champlain Valley Union High School and CDCI’s Vermont I-Team.

Three-year-old Korbin Wooten of St. Albans, VT was diagnosed with Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome, a rare disorder that affects the brain, immune system, and skin. He receives services from the Vermont I-Team, CDCI’s largest project that helps support teams of family members, educators, and professionals work with students so that they can experience and access inclusive education. Heather Blackburn, a Physical Therapist on Korbin’s team, worked with the I-Team and CVU’s engineering department to get Korbin into a chair—in this case, an adapted Power Wheels Wild Thing—that he could operate on his own.

There are many benefits to early, independent mobility. It is linked to children with disabilities experiencing success with other skills like language, socialization, and other motor functions. In an interview with WCAX-3, Korbin’s mother noted the increase of independence her son experiences since receiving the adapted toy: "I think it made a change in him knowing he could do that by himself now. All he wants to do is stuff by himself now, all the time." In addition to the increase of independence, utilizing the joystick of the Wild Thing now will prepare Korbin for when he’s a little older and uses a powerchair.

The Wild Thing is usually operated by two controls, but with some open-source code originally developed in Kansas City, Missouri, the chair can be altered so that it maneuvers with a single joystick. This is the second time the I-Team partnered CVU teacher Olaf Verdonk and student Willem Hillier to bring mobility to a young child with the same toy. Last year the two worked with Miley, then four, to give her a way to keep up with her peers in the classroom and on the playground, and with her older brothers at home. After using the adapted Wild Thing for about eight months, the toy was returned to CVU so that it could be fitted for another child with mobility challenges. The task of modifying it for Korbin turned into Hillier’s senior engineering project, a feat that the St. Alban’s Messenger noted required “extensive collaboration and interdisciplinary work.” Hillier will be attending the University of Vermont in the fall.

The story of the Wild Thing garnered national attention after being featured on World News Tonight with David Muir one year ago today. CDCI and its projects are proud to play a part in making the connections within our communities that help promote access, equity, and inclusion for all.