by Susan Lowenstein
What if I were to tell you that there is a cardboard fairy that visits Easterseals in Bucks County every few weeks? She delivers hand-made adaptive equipment created out of cardboard that our children can use during their day at school to be more successful. You would think I have lost my mind. But it’s true! Well, sort of true. The material that this “fairy” uses is a sturdier and thicker version of cardboard called tri-wall. It can be purchased from stores like Staples or Lowe’s, but has to be specially ordered. So…have I piqued your curiosity? Want to learn more about our “cardboard fairy”?
Her name is Dorothy Hess. She was a Pharmaceutical marketing executive for many years, but now that she is retired, she is using her creativity and resourcefulness as well as her artistic abilities to help the children at Easterseals achieve their full potential! How does she do this, you ask?
Dorothy completed a 3 day volunteer training through a company called Adaptive Design Association. It was this training, along with her own problem solving and analytic skills, that have prepared her to come to Easterseals to design and create various products for our children. Some examples include:
- A completely customized chair for young boy named Javohn who attends our APS program. We were having difficulty fitting him in any of our other student chairs. Javohn has shorter legs and arms, but a longer torso compared to his typically developing peers. We had trialed him in many of our chairs, even those that were adjustable, but we were unable to give him the support that he needed to sit upright in class. But never fear, the “cardboard fairy” is here! Not only was Dorothy able to create a chair that fit this young student perfectly, she painted the entire chair and even hand drew an Elmo on the side of it, just to give it that fantastic preschool look!
- Full length adjustable back supports, mounted directly to the back of our standing frames that we use with children who are unable to stand without support. These back supports have helped make it easier for our staff to position children in our standers, while providing the additional back support that some of our kids need to stand in optimal alignment.
- A customized tray for an adaptive chair which for some time we were unable to use secondary to a broken tray (the product had been discontinued). This is just the first prototype of hopefully many more trays to come, as we have several more chairs that need new trays in order to be used for our children’s educational activities.
The cardboard fairy already has several other projects in the works for us. I can’t wait to see what she brings next time she visits!
by Jo Booth
On Friday, July 28th, I had the good fortune to be able to attend a training sponsored by the Adaptive Design Association Inc. in New York City. Through a grant, the Adaptive Design Assoc. hosted a training for designers, therapists, and skilled craftsmen from the Philadelphia region on the construction of adaptive equipment for people of all abilities. Gratefully, EasterSeals of SEPA was well represented! The goal was to spread both techniques for making products as well as to set up pockets for collaborators to continue this important work by consulting and constructing items of need within their home communities. It doesn’t really matter what “the norm” is, as we all have needs and will most probably require an adaptation at some point in our lives. You see, sometimes it may be to change the angle or view for an individual so that they can complete their work, provide postural support, or be able to complete daily routines or activities of daily living by changing the structure up a bit. If you begin to presume competence in others, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by what a person is indeed capable of doing or understanding.
The Adaptive Design Assoc. was founded by the vision of Alex Truesdale so that the designs and their construction could improve the quality of life for individuals to simply function within their environment. ALL items are customized for EVERY CLIENT and can be made from simple tools and construction materials. Many of the adaptations were made from tri-ply cardboard, glue, and “wooden nails”. The lifespan of the adaptive devices made from these simple but humble materials far outlasted many commercial materials, and in fact, many could be adapted quickly as a person’s needs changed rather than purchasing new equipment altogether. Alex in her overview of her life’s work described the unique relationship between the designers, creators, and clients. She stated that this relationship was the ground or heart of the creative process. When pieces were made from mutual respect, open communication, and yes – love; they could address the needs of the client in a more organic and direct manner. One of my favorite pieces was a stairway to assist a child in independently getting in and out of his wheelchair painted in a Spiderman motif that was totally awesome! When viewing pictures of the designs from the past, it was fascinating to see that what stood out was the individual, and not the design itself. The technology had simply fallen away from view. The Motto for this community of makers is: “Build for One, Engage Everybody, Change Everything™” . At ADA, anything is possible.
Participating with the Adaptive Design Association
The ADA encourages active participation from all as they believe that by using many hands, no detail goes unnoticed. Improvements spontaneously arise from collaborative efforts. The ADA offers many opportunities for learning and involvement. Visiting their website is not only inspirational but also a source for people to learn – tutorials on the process of making adaptations are offered on the website. Workshops, intern positions, and opportunities to volunteer are all ways to become involved and so that you can make a difference in your community. Over the next few months, I hope to show you in more detail, the process of learning to fabricate adaptations that are made with cardboard.
by Sandy Masayko
With support from a grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities has partnered with the Adaptive Design Association and community agencies in fabrication of adaptive equipment (seats, slant boards, wheel chair trays, mobility devices, etc.) from tri-wall cardboard. Easter Seals supported the grant and is very pleased that three of our staff members are participating in the program.
Assistive Technology Specialist Laurie G. McGowan and Occupational Therapist Adrienne Krysiuk traveled to New York City in March for a one day introduction to the processes of making adaptive equipment. Cathleen Thompson, Occupational Therapist, completed the introductory training on another day. Now the three Easter Seals staff members are ready to participate in six additional training days in May and June to become expert at using this low cost material to fabricate adaptive equipment. The May and June sessions will take place at Philadelphia Woodworks in Manayunk.
We will have the opportunity to train another team in the summer.
From left: Rochelle Mendonca, Temple University Occupational Therapy Program, Deb DeVito, Elwyn and Laurie G. McGowan of Easter Seals worked together to learn how to assemble triwall into a seat.
Adrienne Krysiuk checking out the Tippy Chair that she created with her team
Example of a customized and personalized chair made by a team at the Adaptive Design Association.
For more information about the Adaptive Design Association, visit http://www.adaptivedesign.org/