The Department of Physical Therapy at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) has been selected to serve as a fitting site for children with developmental disabilities into tricycles designed for therapeutic use.
"This is an excellent service-learning opportunity for our physical therapy students," said Dr. Terrie Millard, associate professor of physical therapy. "Our students get to interact with community members in need while providing measurements for free, which also means that area therapists will not have to travel in order to do the fittings themselves."
Therapeutic tricycles assist patients with developmental disabilities by building hand-eye coordination, muscle strength, flexibility, social interaction and other important attributes. A developmental disability is characterized as a substantial disability that manifests before a person reaches 22 years old and can be attributed to myriad conditions such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and others. According to the Bethesda Institute, an estimated 4.6 million to 7.7 million people in the U.S. have an intellectual or developmental disability.
AMBUCS, Inc., a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities, and its tricycle-producing company AmTryke, have loaned several therapeutic tricycles to UNG; the university's physical therapy students will use those tricycles to perform the fittings for patients with who may benefit from them.
Most tricycles distributed by AmTryke are purchased by volunteer members of AMBUCS and donated to children in need. More than 15,000 have been distributed worldwide. AMBUCS also seeks to begin a chapter in the region to raise funds to purchase tricycles for families demonstrating financial need. "This association supports UNG's mission through its opportunities for students to learn valuable skills and knowledge through service to community members in need," said Dr. Stefanie Palma, director of academic services and professor of physical therapy. "Becoming a fitting site for these tricycles will enrich the experiences of both our students and visiting patients, and we look forward to seeing the results."
AmTryke produces many tricycle models, serving patients from 30-inch tall children to a 300-pound, 6-foot-4 adult.
"Lives and families will change because of today," said Kevin Sheehan, southern region director for AMBUCS. "We are excited to be welcomed to UNG."