a new scheme is allowing disabled youngsters to get behind the wheel of toy cars alongside their friends.
A research project is to look at whether using the ride-on cars can help the mobility of children with disabilities in Leeds.
Health workers from Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust have been liaising with the William Merritt Disabled Living Centre (WMDLC) in Armley, which provides specially adapted toys and equipment, for the past year.
Now the trust’s Children’s Occupational Therapy Service is planning a study to find out the best way to use the cars and their benefits.
Clinical lead Jennifer McAnuff, who initiated the project, said adaptations of toy cars for disabled youngsters was a new idea to the NHS.
“It would be great to develop the car so they can play, explore and develop their skills,” she said.
WMDLC has been adapting toys for over seven years, but this is the first time ride-on cars have been adapted to see whether they can improve the lives of children with disabilities.
With help from Remap, a charity that makes and modifies equipment for people with disabilities, the cars have been adapted so that rather than pressing a footpedal, the child only needs to press a large, round switch to make the car move.
The switch can be placed wherever is in easy reach for the child. Other adaptions may include inserting seating and harnesses to ensure the child is secure and well supported.
Ms McAnuff added: “The idea of adapting cars came following a visit to a conference in Canada. The ‘Go Baby Go!’ project is well established at the University of Delaware in the US.
“But, to our knowledge, adapting ride-on cars for children with disabilities has not been done in the UK. Around 800,000 children across the country have a disability, and mobility difficulties are one of the most common they face. “This is a problem because mobility is critical for children’s early play, socialisation and development.
“Before we roll this out fully, it’s important we build on existing research and do our own study to look at what’s the best way to use the cars and what the benefits seem to be.”
Families already involved say the cars are hugely beneficial.
Funding has been donated by the trust’s charitable funds, WMDLC and law firm Irwin Mitchell.