In the world of children with disabilities, it just may be their parents who come up with the best ideas for life-changing technology.
You’ve probably noticed that exoskeletons and walking harnesses have been in the news a lot lately. The devices, which are usually large, bulky contraptions that run on pistons and hydraulics, are the first stage in technology that many hope will eventually help those with severe physical disabilities to regain mobility and the ability to walk.
The latest of these technological wonders is not so large and bulky, but does the trick all the same, and it’s designed specifically for kids. It has also just recently hit the worldwide market. And so far, it seems to be a hit with parents and kids alike, including the family in this video.
The Firefly Upsee, the brainchild of Debby Elnatan, a mother in Israel, has been developed and manufactured by Leckey, a Northern Ireland company. The company has a long history of producing equipment and mobility devices for special needs children.
This particular harness is a bit different from similar devices in that it doesn’t rely on electronics, hydraulics, or self-propulsion— the Upsee uses “parent propulsion” for its work. The device helps children with disabilities stand on their own, but it’s attached to the child’s parent to allow the child to walk. The idea is to help give back some mobility to children like Elnatan’s own Rotem, who has cerebral palsy, and to build a bond between the child and parent at the same time. In this next video, Debbie Elnatan emotionally describes her motivation for designing the Upsee.
“It is wonderful to see this product available to families across the world,” Elnatan said “When my son was two years old, I was told by medical professionals that ‘he didn’t know what his legs are and has no consciousness of them.’ That was an incredibly difficult thing for a mother to hear. I started to walk him day after day, which was a very strenuous task for both of us. Out of my pain and desperation came the idea for the Upsee, and I’m delighted to see it come to fruition.” Here’s another positive review of the device…
Maura McCrystal says the device has helped her son Jack, who suffers from an as-yet-undiagnosed condition which restricts him to a wheelchair and an oxygen tank, play football with his family for the first time. “Last Sunday was a significant one for us as a family as it was the first time our son Jack was able to play football in the back garden with his dad, his brothers and our little dog Milly,” she said. “To see Jack playing like any other five-year-old boy made me very emotional. Jack and his brothers so enjoyed it.” Watch Jack kick the ball!
Behind this invention is the idea that by connecting to the parent for mobility, the child will gain physical training, and thus will eventually regain some independent ability to walk, as the device aids in the strengthening of muscles, bone density, and joint development, not to mention the parent/child relationship. In this last photo, a father uses the Upsee to help his daughter with disabilities live every little girl’s dream of being a flower girl in a wedding. What’s your prognosis for the Firefly Upsee?