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Tomball school receives adaptive car for special needs students

January 19, 2019

Dayton Shirley can’t speak or run around like her classmates in her kindergarten class at Creekside Forest Elementary School, but with the help of an adaptive car, she’ll be able to keep up with them.

Shirley, 5, was surrounded by her class on Friday when representatives from the nonprofit organization Be An Angel arrived with a tiny pink motorized car shaped like a Mercedes Benz.

They cheered her on when she pressed a giant red button on the steering wheel that made the car move forward.

“Now she knows if she presses it, she can go,” said Marti Boone, executive director of Be An Angel, which provides children with adaptive equipment and services.

The organization has been providing school districts with adaptive cars since 2016, Boone said.

Once Shirley outgrows the small vehicle, other Tomball ISD students with disabilities will also have the chance to use the car as well to help them with mobility issues.

As a toddler, Shirley was initially diagnosed as autistic after gradually losing the ability to speak, walk unassisted and suffered from seizures.

In 2017, Shirley was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects breathing, the ability to walk, talk and other motor skills.

The syndrome is caused by a random genetic mutation that generally affects girls, according to the National Institute of Health.

When her classmates and family came to see the small car, Shirley got out of her wheelchair and took a few steps forward before she was helped inside the tiny vehicle by Lori Waldrop, a program specialist with low incidence populations with Tomball ISD.

“This is reinforcing the skills that she’s been learning in the classroom in a far more reinforcing manner,” she said.

While the district does have adaptive equipment to help special needs students with chairs, keyboards, communication devices and other devices, it did not have any motorized chairs, she said.

Shirley’s younger sisters, Taylor, 3, and Samantha, 1, clapped when they saw she was able to move the car when she pressed down on the button.

“It’s something that she can use to play with her friends outside. It’s really cool, something that she can control because there’s not a lot that she can do that she can control. This is about the limit of her hand control. It’s so awesome for her,” said Amanda Shirley, Dayton’s mother.

mayra.cruz@chron.com

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