Ashfield Infants’ Home is a day care and early intervention center where the development of children with special needs is given particular attention. Set in a beautiful 19th century house and grounds in Sydney’s inner west, it is a bright, happy and constructive environment for the children to play and learn.
For children such as Kate, who has been slow to learn to walk due to poor muscle tone, one device that is very helpful is TAD’s standard block trolley. This is a trolley that provides additional support for those with standing and walking difficulties, and is counter weighted to make it very stable.
As well as providing stability, the weighting means the trolley can only move as fast as the children can push it, and is unlikely to run away from them. It also makes it safer for the children to use in other play activities.
Ashfield’s trolley was built by TAD volunteer Donald Pearson. The tray is made from 9mm plywood, and has two flat paving bricks in the bottom which are covered with an additional panel. The top edges of the tray are covered with flymould beading to protect the children from the sharp edge of the timber.
The handle is made from 16mm diameter dowel covered with foam rubber tubing, and side pieces made from 42mm x 19mm pine with slots in each side. This is mounted at an angle on the side of the tray in two parallel pieces of 19mm pine, and the height of the handle can be adjusted using a tri-nut to make it suitable for use by children of different ages and heights.
The overall mounting height of the handle can also be changed according to the specifications of the therapist – in Ashfield’s case it is 55cm at its lowest height.
The rear plastic and rubber wheels are 132mm in diameter and mounted at the side of the tray. The front wheels are 50mm castors which make it easy to steer, and these are mounted on square 19mm plywood pads under the trolley so that the front and rear wheels are even on the ground. The back wheels can be located further rearwards for added stability as necessary.
At Ashfield, the trolley is extremely popular. According to therapist Susan Pearse Hewitt, it provides an opportunity for the children to develop social and creative skills as they play with it, as well as practicing other movements such as pushing, turning and negotiating obstacles.
When Kate has a turn, it is easy to see that she is now walking quite confidently, and also enjoys the sheer pleasure of the exercise. Susan also tells of another little boy who was very withdrawn and displayed no interest in any of the toys at the center, but began to play with the trolley when it was shown to him.
Susan says the trolley is of very sturdy construction and has only been repaired once, despite being used almost every day and subjected to the wear and tear that only young children can inflict!