Students make devices to help disabled children

April 12, 1995|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

With a few pieces of wood, some screws and a sander, Matt Cooper helped Dustin Grager to stand.

Mr. Cooper fashioned a platform with an adjustable upright board and tray on which 2-year-old Dustin, who has cerebral palsy, can lean. Yesterday, Mr. Cooper and four other students at the Center of Applied Technology North, saw the prone stander and other equipment they crafted for physically disabled children put to use.

Dustin and 11-month-old Ron Howard III, who also has cerebral palsy, visited the vocational school to try out the equipment built for the county Infants and Toddlers program.

"I just love doing this kind of stuff, building stuff, especially when it's useful," said Mr. Cooper, 18, a senior at Arundel High School. "It felt really good knowing that I'm helping someone who can't function like you and I."

Nancy Marvin, service coordinator for the Infants and Toddlers program, said she recruited the carpentry section of the vocational school to build the items because her program has an increasing number of families that need the equipment, but cannot make or afford to buy it.

The prone standers, for example, cost as much as $495. And a corner chair, which is used to help the children learn to sit up, can cost as much as $300, she said.

For less than the cost of one corner chair, the carpentry students have built six corner chairs and three reading trays that will be picked up next week. Six prone standers also will be completed with in the next few weeks.

"To me it's incredible when you see how basic the need is," Ms. Marvin said of the students' work. "It just took people who had some interest and the willingness to really help somebody out."

The Infants and Toddlers program serves 377 children in Anne Arundel County who have developmental disabilities. Although most of the children have speech and language problems, about 25 percent have physical disabilities.

The contribution of the students will more than double the number of pieces the program has for families.

"We feel like it will be able to meet our need," Ms. Marvin said.

Yesterday, Dustin and Ron tried out the chairs and the standers while the students who built them watched and played with the boys.

"I can really relate to them," said Marty Putnam, 17, who is dyslexic. "I was actually happy to do something like this for kids that need it."

Marty, a junior at Old Mill High School, built a reading tray, which helps children learn to work with their hands. The small, lightweight, triangular-shaped device can be used on a desk, the floor or in a child's lap to hold small items for the youngsters to grasp.

The prone stander that Mr. Cooper built helps children learn to manage their weight on their legs and develop their bones and muscles.

Carpentry teacher John Pieper said meeting the children who will use their products made a change in the young men who are "divorced" from their consumers "99 percent of the time."

"They look a bit softer," he said. "They're getting A's for these projects."

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