Archive for Saturday, February 17, 1996


February 17, 1996


The state's assistive technology program is providing free riding toys to qualifying children in northeast Kansas.

You can bet Christopher, Katie and Jimmy Hall are having fun today on their new red riding toy.

"They can't push themselves very well on it, but they can honk the horn," said Jane Hall, mother of the 16-month-old triplets.

Hall, of Eudora, said she and her husband, Denny, are happy about the toy car their children received as part of "Christmas in February" give-away program being offered by the state.

"Anything we can get we don't have to pay for is great," said Hall, a technical writer who is now a stay-at-home mother.

The "Big Bobby Cars" are being given to infants and toddlers up to age 3 through the Assistive Technology for Kansans Project, which is based in Kansas University's Institute for Life Span Studies facility in Parsons.

To be eligible for the giveaways, children must have significant delays in learning, communication or motor skills.

Hall said her children met the eligibility requirements.

"They were born seven weeks premature, so they were little bit behind developmentally," she said.

Hall picked up the riding toy last week at the Northeast Assistive Technology Access Site in Lawrence.

The office at 1910 Haskell has received about 200 Big Bobby Cars, which were donated to the state from the Big Toy Company.

Odessa Pierce, program coordinator, and Julie Portenier, assistive technology specialist, said that by last week they had given away about 30 of the cars throughout their 13-county northeast Kansas district.

Those included several at Head Start programs, a children's hospital and a few infant- and toddler-care centers.

Portenier and Pierce were laughing about all the boxes of cars they still have piled in closets and hallways around their office.

"They'll be here until people come and get them," Pierce said.

Pierce said not all children with disabilities will be able to use them.

"The children will have to be able to propel the cars with their feet and they have to be able to sit up," she said.

Portenier said the local site, one of five throughout the state, serves not only young children, but all ages who need assistive technology and services.

"Many people call our site to obtain devices that will enhance their independent living, whether that's in employment or in education," she said.

She said there are several subcontractors who work with the assistive technology program in the state, including the inter-agency loan program.

Examples of such equipment are wheelchairs, walkers, voice-activated computers, communication devices and modified kitchen tools.

If people can't obtain the type of assistive technology they need or if they are trying to figure out what suits their needs, they can check it out from the inter-agency loan program at no cost.

A big part of the program is the Kansas Infant Toddler Program, which serves children up to age 5, Portenier said.

The Big Bobby Cars aren't specifically designed for people with disabilities, Portenier said.

"But what's nice is they do turn. A child can sit on them and propel them with their feet," she said. "Basically, it's something that will conform to a lot of other children's needs."

The cars do not have a lot of small parts.

"And they will be good for enhancing a child's motor skills," Portenier said.

Meanwhile, Hall said her triplets are enjoying playing with their new car.

"They loved it," she said. "They love any new toy."

Assistive technology

People who think their child might qualify for a "Big Bobby Car" can call the local Northeast Assistive Technology Access site at 841-0333 or (800) KAN-DO-IT (526-3648) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A forum to discuss equipment needs of people with disabilities will be held 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Gallery Room of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

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