DIY Kids Wheelchairs

DIY – Halloween Costumes

The Bridge School, in Hillsborough, California has a specific mission:

The Bridge School is an internationally recognized leader in the education of children who use augmentative and alternative communication and has developed unique programs and trained highly skilled professionals in the use of state of the art assistive technology.

flying-carpet.jpgLaudable enough, but there’s something on their website of particular interest to GearAbility readers who care for children who use wheelchairs or walkers. The nifty images you see in this post are costumes cleverly adapted to those devices — just in time for Halloween.

drummer.jpgIn addition to Aladdin (upper left) and the Punk Rock Drummer (to the right), there are instructions for George of the Jungle, a Flower Garden, a Bulldozer and (many) more.

The page is full of helpful suggestions; click on the images for instructions for each costume. There’s also a .pdf handbook available (though registration is required to access the download).

The Bridge School’s Halloween Costume Page

At Home Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home

Love, Imagination, and Human Interaction

Bella a Golden Retriever PuppyBlondie, my dad’s loyal companion, got a Christmas present herself this year: Oscar, a Golden Retriever puppy from the same company that made Blondie. Oscar (that’s the name Dad chose — on the website, the Douglas Company shows the same puppy named ‘Bella’) is full of spunk and personality. His arrival has sparked a lot of conversation — Blondie was clearly nonplussed when this little upstart showed up. But she’s learned to defer to the obstreperous youngster, and they’re fast pals now.

At Home Good Stuff Kids

Cowbells in the Sick Room — and the Hospital

After I wrote about cowbells (suggesting using them in sick-rooms) a few days ago, I received an email from Elisabeth at

At Home Games/Recreation Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home

Engaging Hand-Held Game for One or More

Big Screen 20QOver the holidays, we bought a hand-held game called 20Q thinking that it might be entertaining for everyone if the family was visiting, and we couldn’t get out due to weather. The idea is simple — you think of an object — an apple, a bicycle, a brick — and the game asks you 20 questions in an attempt to figure out what it is. Using artificial intelligence technology, 20Q interprets your answers, guessing right a surprising amount of the time. (OK, almost all the time.) We were pretty cocky to begin with, but 20Q has a lot of personality, and didn’t mind humbling us one bit. The thing’s sassy — it taunts you as you play!

The beauty of it is that you don’t need any prior knowledge to play. You just need to know the names of objects, and to have the ability to answer relatively simple questions. The trickiest of the questions are along the lines of “is it a mammal?” In our experience, even if you don’t know an answer, though, the game goes on just fine.

Ours was the pocket version. Because it was so small and round, I thought my dad might have trouble holding it and using the buttons — and he did, a little. But he was too involved to mind much.

Naturally, we went out and picked up the big screen version so Dad could have it at the nursing home. It’s rectangular and easier to hold, and the buttons are also further apart and simpler to use.

When we first played the game with the family over the holidays, we read the questions out loud and answered them together. It was noisy and a lot of fun, with a lot of laughing. But even when my dad played the game by himself, 20Q seemed almost social — he’s interacting, not just reading the questions. And it’s addictive . . . the day we gave the big screen version to him, he hustled us on our way, and headed back to his room so he could play more! It’s gotten increasingly difficult to get him engaged with new things, so it was a treat to see how he took to this neat little toy.

The game is battery-powered and has several options for answers: yes, no, sometimes, rarely. There’s a backlight on the pocket version to make the text more readable. The big screen version doesn’t have the backlight, but the text is quite clear if you just change the angle when you’re holding it.

The text is surprisingly large — it scrolls, and you can slow it down or speed it up on either version. We were able to set the big screen version so that Dad had no trouble reading the questions, even though he’s not at all used to electronic games.

For the right nursing home or assisted living resident, this could be a fine independent activity. Anyone confined to bed or inactivity (however temporarily) could do worse than while away the boring hours tussling with this ‘intelligent’ little device. It could also be just the thing when conversation lags during hours spent in waiting rooms, or when hospital visits threaten to become stultifying.

Beware — it’s very competitive, and you’ll really need to stump it. Dad loves knowing that he might get the upper hand . . . next time! Even when you can’t win, it’s amazing and amusing to be awed by this clever little box.

Recommended for ages 8 and up. Available just about everywhere you find toys (except around Christmas time, when we couldn’t find it locally at all), and at (which sold out at Christmas). The pocket version is available in a slew of languages, but you may have to order online to get those.

Games/Recreation Gifts Kids

Arm-Powered Toy Car

PlasmaCarHere in the USA we love our vehicles. Maybe we take it to an extreme, but to lust for wheels seems so . . . human. For those among us too young to drive, or for whom bikes are not a possibility, may I present the PlasmaCar? No pedals, no batteries, no fuel, no pollution, and it looks like an utter blast. It’s arm-propelled — make it go by turning the steering wheel back and forth. Use it in the living room, the basement, or take it to the park. Look at those lines — could aerobic exercise get any cooler?

U Silly Goose carries it online, and has a nice succinct description of it. Prepare to share — the weight limit is 220 lbs. on a flat surface, 120 lbs on a rough surface — weight, not age, is the only limitation here!

There’s a video of PlasmaCars in action on the PlasmaCar homepage, and a link to a Discovery Channel physicist explaining centrifigal force and how it works. You can read many glowing customer comments on the site, too, but comments aren’t moderated and there’s a ton of spam, too, some of it not exactly family-friendly.

At Home Games/Recreation Kids

Video Game Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

An engineering student at the University of Toronto has designed a computer game for children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy. The purpose of the game is to get kids to engage the weaker side of their bodies. According to this article, kids use their stronger arm to hold a button under a chair, and then use the weaker one like a joystick to play the game.

The idea, of course, is to strength muscles and develop full potential, but a big plus is that this is therapy that can be done at home — and it’s meant to be entertaining. Motivation is everything in all kinds of therapy, and play-as-therapy is one good hook.

No reviews from kids yet . . . but the concept is very exciting. And strange — can’t you hear it now? “OK, kiddo, get that nose out of your book and over to that video console . . .”

Clothing Everyday Gear Kids

Noisy Shoes for Toddlers

pipsqueaker oxfordBack in the middle of the 20th century, it was very common to attach little white plastic barrels to toddler’s shoes. The barrels unscrewed at one end so they could be slipped over a tied shoelace — locking it in place, neatly tied. On top of the barrel was a single jingle bell, presumably for said child’s amusement, but also so that anyone could track the little rascal’s movements by ear alone.

choke tube tester

At Home Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home

Companion Pets — Puzzle the Cat

Puzzle Cat from Douglas ToyWe’ve covered dogs thoroughly on Blondie’s post, so it seems only fair to mention cats, too. Douglas Toy Company does a great job with their cats, too, as Puzzle (photo) amply demonstrates.

Douglas also has a large offering of the curly ‘kohair’ pets. I admit I’m not crazy about them (I like my animals to look very much like the real thing), but even I realize that the kohair fabric is extra soft.

At Home DIY Everyday Gear Kids Nursing Home

Elastic Band for Holding Paper/Small Objects on Tray Table

Writing has become difficult for my dad, and he does very little of it these days. After Christmas, though, he wanted to write short replies to a number of Christmas cards. It was difficult for him to hold on to the paper, so I rigged up a fat rubber band to hold it on his writing table.

Clothing Everyday Gear Kids

Shoelaces — Tie and Wrap

Shoelaces, those clever fasteners, have bedeviled us since their invention, untying at will and leaving us disheveled, or worse, splayed all over the floor. Mousetraps aside, the Nobel awarded by the daily-living gods may one day be offered for the perfect shoelace solution. Accordingly, here’s another nominee: a velcro wrap invented by a coach in Texas.