Published on Thursday, March 14, 2013
We've come to see that the saying "you gotta have fun with it" plays a huge role in caring and providing for a child with special needs. Before my wife and I had kids, I was always building something. After our oldest son was diagnosed with CP, my focus switched from tinkering with stuff in the garage to taking care of him. For Christmas one year, our neighbors bought their kids Power Wheels vehicles. Jacob loved to go outside and watch them drive around. It wasn't always easy to watch because I wished that he could get out there and drive around with them. This got my gears turning and motivated me to see what I could do to get him out there. I did some "googling" on Power Wheels modifications and came across www.modifiedpowerwheels.com. In their forum, I found a guy who had posted a thread about a Power Wheels John Deere Tractor that he made remote control for his son with cerebral palsy. After collaborating with some of the forum users on the site for a few weeks, I had built a remote control Power Wheels Cadillac Escalade for Jacob! Since then, I've been motivated to modify and create other things so he can get out there and "play" with other kids.
There's a few different types of cerebral palsy. Our son was actually diagnosed with little bit of each of the most common forms, one being Spastic Cerebral Palsy. He has high tone from the waist down and low tone in his torso. This makes it very difficult for him to sit up on his own. So this was my first challenge... How to support him in this little car while I'm driving him around. Well, this is what I came up with.
The Seat Harness
1 - Laptop sleeve
1 - Lid to an old rubber maid container
1/2 yard 1" thick batting
4 or 5 Straps and buckles
Fabric for shoulder pads
Outdoor quality thread for sewing machine
Rubber padding (We used an old exercise mat)
The Power Wheel
Here are the core components that were recommended to me for this project.
Depending on the type of PW you're using, you may need to get a little "creative" with the parts you use to mount the actuator, and when connecting the actuator to the steering rod. Don't be intimidated by this part either. I literally went to the local hardware store, bought a piece of aluminum angle iron, some flat "L" brackets, washers, nuts and bolts, and beat the angle iron and L-bracket into shape with a hammer around a couple pieces of 2x4's that were screwed together.
Here's one of our first videos of the R/C Power Wheel in action.
Out for a joy ride in the park
I believe projects like this are just as good for parents as they are for the child. Not only did I get a chance to get back out in the garage, I got to see the joy on my sons face when he was able to race the neighborhood kids up and down the street. Even though I'm the one driving, I think Jacob gets a sense of independence when he's riding around. Eventually, I'd like to modify this car so HE can drive it - I would still have a remote fail-safe of course.
I'd like to thank www.ModifiedPowerWheels.com and everyone in the forum for helping me. I'd also like to thank Joe, Eric and Grandpa Al. You guys jumped on the chance to help me out with this project, THANK YOU!
You can also view the forum thread for this project on the Modified Power Wheels website HERE if this is something you are interested in doing.
If you have any comments or questions, please let us know in the comment section below.
Categories: DIY, Cerebral Palsy, Awareness, DIY
1/20/2013 5:49 PM
Love this, great idea. We have a son with SQCP and my husband is now budiling a riding lawnmower fashioned from a recycled scooter and a push lawn mower. He also made a remote control electric wheelchair and bought an 18 inch boy doll from Pottery Barn Kids. (They're the only boy doll we found who didn't look possessed. Would love to connect with you. I'm writing a text book for medical professionals on CP from an interdisciplinary approach and including cool photos of kids with CP doing amazing things. If you have any photos to share, shoot me an email!!!
1/21/2013 9:02 PM
Hi Michele! Thanks for your comment! We will defiantly get in touch. We have PLENTY of pictures for you to check out. I am still in work putting the rest of the info together for this article (should be complete soon). Also, as soon as we get the forum up (this week) it would be great if you could post some pictures of your husbands projects. I'd like to see this lawnmower.
2/15/2013 9:40 AM
Brad, I love that you've posted the project that gave Jacob wheels! I remember those big smiles and laughs from him, and you and his brother, when you showed us what you had done to make that little Cadillac accessible. You have a beautiful family!
3/15/2013 6:17 PM
What a talented Grandson! You did a beautiful job with the car and you can see how much the boys love it. Let us know of future projects you may be working on for them. They couldn't have more caring parents.
Love to you all.
8/31/2013 1:23 AM
This looks great. I saw your video on You Tube. I just bought a battery powered car for my daughter with CP. She has spastic diplegia and low muscle tone in her abdomen as well. Great harness tutorial. That looks do-able. I am, however, more handy with a sewing machine than power tools. Do you have any tips on how to modify a non-power wheels or non-peg perego car? I'm looking some sort of general overview of what you have to do.
I am not looking for technical specifications here, just general instructions. Do I buy an RC car, take the steering out of it, and hook it up to the big car, somehow? I just don't know much about electronics.
Thanks in advance.
12/1/2013 9:32 PM
What kind of car are you interested in modifying? I choose the Power Wheels Cadillac Escalade because it has a lot of growing room and the doors are equal in height to the windshield. Sine my son has low muscle tone from the waist up, the higher doors help support him a little and allows him to prop his arm on top for a little more balance.
When I first started this project, I also wondered if I could use parts from an RC car, and I didn't know much about electronics either. The guys at www.modifiedpowerwheels.com helped me put together my parts list (above), which made everything go together pretty easy. I would check out some of the projects on their site to see if anyone has modified a car like yours. You can also start a thread in our forum if you like and share some pictures so we can see what kind of car you are working with.
I hope that helps :-)
12/1/2013 8:42 PM
Why does the linear actuator need a potentiometer?
Where did you find actuator control board (lac) & case?
12/1/2013 9:17 PM
The potentiometer will return the actuator back to center when you let go of the controls.
Here are the links to the LAC board and case that I used.
Are you starting a build of your own?
12/28/2013 8:50 AM
Awesome job and thanks for the informative way you have posted it. We have a special needs little girl and I am in the early stages of researching a PW "build out". I found several escalades in our area and after watching you videos I think that's the one I'll go for. Thanks again for info and inspiration to make this thing sooner than later. Also props to you for taking good care of that precious gift!!
12/30/2013 11:01 PM
Thanks David! I am glad this post has been helpful! I am actually in the process of an upgrade, so stay tuned! I want to hand over control of the PW to my son. He uses an iPad to communicate with on a daily basis, so I am going to convert the PW to Bluetooth and mount the iPad on the dashboard, in place of the steering wheel.
1/4/2014 10:22 PM
Oh wow - that's insane. What app are you using for the comm? Our daughter uses an Ipad as well so I'd be very interested in both the app and the upgrade.
Side note: I picked up a stinger xs dune buggy today and have already updated the electrical system and am ordering the r/c parts off your list right now. I'm going to be doing some serious alterations because of our daughters length and for her safety so I'll shoot some pictures of her and the buggy once were all put together. Thanks again!
2/19/2014 9:12 PM
I haven't really started looking for an app yet. Once I complete the Bluetooth connection and have everything else in place I am going to start looking for one. If you know of one that you would recommend please let me know!
2/21/2014 4:25 PM
That's really cool! I've got cp, too. (quad. dystonia) Just found your site, so heading off to explore it. :)
3/31/2014 10:16 PM
Thanks, Dexter! Hope you enjoy everything I have so far. I plan to have more posts about modifying equipment soon!
3/31/2014 10:08 PM
I just finished retrofitting a Ford F150 Raptor PW with RC. A friend of the family had found this website and I was asked if I could do that for her three year old with Brittle Bone Disease. It turned out to be a very fun project. Having the time available, I machined aluminum components for the linear actuator mounting. I added a 12V battery and connected it in parallel with the PW battery so that one or both can be used at the same time.
Will send a couple pics if you care to send me your email address.
Nelson P.S. I've tried to register on the ModifiedPowerWheels forum but it won't accept my answer of ModPowWhe. Any idea why?
3/31/2014 10:36 PM
That's great, Nelson! I would love to check out the F150! Check out the forum when you get a chance. I will be adding a new thread there for other builders to share the projects they have created to help children with special needs.
Not sure why ModifiedPowerWheels wouldn't let you register... There should be an email address there to ask for help. If I find it, I will post it for you.
8/29/2014 11:26 PM
I noticed you mentioned you will work on the new upgrade on this power wheel by controlling it on your ipad. Is there any update? I just got the exactly same truck as yours. But not sure where to start. Also is it easy to restore this RC configuration to the original power wheel? My daughter is too young to drive it herself. But she will learn how to drive it later when she is older. Your reply is appreciated. If possible, just give me a reply by email. thanks!
9/27/2014 10:06 AM
What hand controller are you using? I didn't see that in the list of items.
11/2/2014 9:26 PM
hi. great idea and great info!!! is that a complete list of parts you used to complete the pw project? also, Im pretty sure I can find all the parts you have listed for the pw project, but im concerned that when I start modifications and the install, I might run into problems with the electronic and not able to get it all assembled and working. was it pretty simple to assemble all the parts? I did not see any component assemble instructions. Thanks again!!!
3/29/2015 2:48 PM
Brad do you have a wiring diagram for this setup I'm looking to do the same for my son for his raptor he uses to get to and from the pool and playground at the campground.
1/22/2016 7:19 PM
How much would you charge to build one? I need one asap