Angelina Shirley was beaming as she watched her three-year-old daughter Sadie drive a toy car for the very first time.
“This is the first opportunity for her to have a chance of being mobile and some independence,” Shirley said.
“She has cerebral palsy, quadriplegic cerebral palsy, and she’s blind and deaf. So today’s really special.”
Sadie was enjoying the ride in a specially-modified car thanks to a program called “Go Baby Go.”
It’s run by a Calgary group called GRIT, which stands for Getting Ready for Inclusion Today.
The group works to improve the lives of pre-schoolers with disabilities.
“The concept behind that is that we like to include the kids with the skills they have right now,“ GRIT’s Cherie Deur said. “And also teach them new skills so they can do even more.”
Braxton Lockie was another young Calgarian enjoying riding around in a toy car.
The four-year-old’s cerebral palsy limits his movement from his neck down, so he controls the car by moving his head against a switch.
“He can’t go running around with his brother at the park,” Braxton’s mom, Tara, said.
“So something like this, where he can be with his peers and they’re all having fun, it’s really important to us. He is so happy that he has control, in a world where he has very little control.”
Deur said as an occupational therapist with GRIT, she is encouraged by “Go Baby Go,” which she believes is the first of its kind in Alberta.
“It changes their perceptions of the world,” Deur said. “Instead of being a receiver, who gets pushed and taken care of, they can become an active participant in their world.
“They can go where they want to go and they can play with who they want to play with. It’s just beautiful. It brings a lot of joy.”
Joy is definitely something Shirley was feeling as she watched her little Sadie making her debut as a driver.
“We didn’t know she could do something like this,” Shirley said. “So I’m really proud of her.”