Toddler enjoys’ Wizzybug’ motorized wheelchair. (Courtesy Aleh)

A new project, launched by ALEH, enables children with disabilities to take control of their mobility at a very young age.

At the beginning of November, ALEH, Israel’s network of care for children with severe and complex disabilities, launched a new empowerment project at its residential facility in Jerusalem that provides toddlers with specially designed motorized wheelchairs, allowing them to take control of their own mobility from the age of one.

The small but powerful “Wizzybug” chairs are intended for both indoor and outdoor use and provide full support for every part of the child’s growing body.

The chair as well as the steering mechanism can be adjusted to match each child’s unique physical requirements. While most models are operated with a joystick, the chair could also be operated by switches where the child has intentional involutary movement. After enough training, children with disabilities are able to “use” their involuntary movements to their benefit. These movements occur whether they want them to or not, but they can direct the force towards something productive.

“Moving in space independently helps young children with disabilities learn about ‘cause and effect’ and develop self-confidence and encourages them to interact with their environment,” explained Shlomit Grayevsky, director of ALEH Jerusalem.

Though society as a whole is more sensitive to the needs of the disability community than ever before, major advances are still necessary in the care of young children with disabilities. Most notably, infants and toddlers require tools that enable exploration and socialization, as movement, touch and the freedom to play and make choices regarding one’s destination are crucial to their learning and development. The Wizzybug chairs address these needs, allowing a group of children who were previously dependent on their adult caretakers to explore, interact with their peers, and develop spatial awareness and independence.

“We at ALEH believe that every person has a natural right to dignity, the highest quality of life and to reach their fullest potentials. That’s why these brilliant Wizzybug chairs were a natural fit for us,” said Grayevsky. “We are thrilled for all of our amazing ALEH kids who are now benefitting from this exciting project, and we enjoy watching them use this new tool to move their lives ever forward.”

ALEH was founded in 1982 by a group of Israeli parents who were determined to give their children with severe complex disabilities the best available care and the opportunity to develop to their fullest potentials.

Over the last 35 years, ALEH has become a global community based on the principles of sensitivity, commitment and kindness, making a difference in the lives of Israel’s most vulnerable children and building a better, more caring world.