There’s a special place in my heart for those with special needs. I’m always in awe of the blessings they bring to everyone they encounter. Yet, I’m also keenly aware that the challenges their families face are very real. Everyday tasks that we take for granted are often far more complicated for them. In spite of the difficulties, they find innovative ways to adjust and adapt. Today, I’m going to share three extraordinary inventions that are changing lives for those living with disabilities and helping to mainstream them into everyday society. This, I believe, helps to counter the misguided reaction of abortion when preborn babies are diagnosed with disabilities.
According to the Census Bureau, approximately 1.6 million children between the ages of 6 and 14 have a severe disability. For most, this makes the routine task of grocery shopping a substantial effort, if not impossible. Parents or caregivers can face the danger of trying to fit a child into the seat of a standard shopping cart. Others try to juggle pushing both a shopping cart and a wheelchair. And some have to exclude the child from shopping altogether. This was what parents, David and Drew Ann Long, experienced with their daughter. Caroline was born with multiple disabilities. As she got older, she outgrew the standard shopping cart seat. Drew Ann was frustrated and made up her mind that kids with special needs deserved the same opportunities as other children. With that, Caroline’s Cart was born. Over the course of three years, she met with engineers, legal counsel and business consultants. The greatest boost came when National Easter Seals decided to back the project. The cart was designed with specific features and benefits. A large seat with the ability to tilt provides comfort to those with low muscle tone. A platform serves as a footrest. And the seat faces forward so eye contact is able to be maintained, which aids in children with anxiety issues. Drew Ann explains, “I love the fact that this shopping cart will make it possible for kids with disabilities to be part of a family shopping outing. More than this, when kids with disabilities are visible—with their families—doing everyday errands, it sends an important message to everyone who sees them.” Learn more at: www.carolinescart.com.
Any parent knows the pure joy and amazement at witnessing a child’s first steps. Parents of wheelchair-bound children have been denied that experience until now. Debby Elnatan’s son, Rotem, has cerebral palsy. He was just a toddler when doctors told her that her son should not be encouraged to walk or crawl. But Debby was determined that Rotem should be able to be upright. Debby created a device that was like a harness. It would attach to her legs and feet, and allow Rotem’s movements to follow her own. Mother and son were able to walk together on outings and do errands. She altered it as Rotem grew and eventually worked on bringing her invention to market. Called the UpSee and designed for ages 3 to 8, the device is broadening the experiences of young children with physical limitations. Stacy Warden explains how the UpSee has influenced the life of her 5-year-old son Noah. “One of the most touching moments came when Noah’s 3-year-old brother Luke was able to hug his brother for the first time. And because Noah was standing in the harness, he was able to hug his little brother back.” Physically, Noah is showing further development by being able to do more movements and bear weight on both legs. UpSee is truly changing lives one step at a time. For personal stories and to see the UpSee in action, click here to watch the video.
One day, 9-year-old Hannah Feda was flipping through a catalog and found a doll that looked like her sister, but was frustrated she couldn’t find one that resembled her. It was because Hannah has Down syndrome. Her mother Connie was inspired to create a doll that would have her daughter’s features: almond eyes, lower set ears, cute pudgy hands and even a zipper-like scar on her chest. (The scar came from an operation Hannah had to correct three holes in her heart. Heart conditions are common in children with Down syndrome.) She set out on a journey to find the ideal prototype, which was the vision of artist, Karen Scott. Using money from her own savings, Connie had Hannah’s doll fashioned and she began the arduous process of marketing the concept. The purpose of the dolls is twofold. First, it’s a toy and companion for the child that will reaffirm the child’s self image. Connie shares, “I want Hannah to see a doll with Down syndrome and see something beautiful, because that’s what I see when I look at her.” Second, the dolls have a teaching element to encourage eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Kids can practice with snaps, buttons and zippers on the clothing. The hair was also designed to be brushed. In the future, they hope to expand and be able to include dolls for other disabilities. Dolls can be purchased online at www.extraspecialdolls.com.
Each of these inventions is revolutionary in its own way. And they all support inclusion of individuals with disabilities, which is something that should be championed. If you enjoy these encouraging stories as much as I do, watch these uplifting programs from our pro-life TV show, Facing Life Head-On. The TV crew and I are always blessed to interact with individuals who have special needs AND the people who love them.
- The Finneytown Sparkle Cats are an inclusive cheerleading squad that’s adding sparkle to the lives of three very special high school students.
- GiGi’s Playhouse is helping individuals with Down syndrome reach their highest potential.
- Thanks to the Miracle League, kids with special needs don’t have to sit on the sidelines and can play the game of baseball.
If there’s a story about someone with special needs in your life that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it. Please email me at email@example.com.
Because ALL life is special,
Life Issues Institute