A local toddler may not have much control over his muscle function, but he now has a toy car he can control.
2-year-old Austin Rousselow has overcome more challenges than many people will face in a lifetime. He was born three months early and stopped breathing three times.
After spending a long time at the hospital, Austin’s parents finally brought him home – only to learn he had Cerebral Palsy a short time later.
“It was very, very hard,” said Austin’s father, Shawn. “But, he's more than what I can ask for right now.”
While Austin’s diagnosis prevents him from participating in some childhood activities, some Notre Dame engineering students are giving him a chance to move around.
Through the Student Engineers Reaching Out program, they work with Memorial Hospital in South Bend to modify popular toys for children with special needs.
The challenge they took on for Austin is their biggest project yet – modifying a toy Hummer so he can drive.
“Austin doesn't have the ability to turn the steering wheel or press the pedal, so we cut out the steering wheel and pedal and rerouted it buttons, which control all the functionality of the turning and the gas pedals,” said Notre Dame student Derek Wolf.
Austin uses the custom car frequently during physical therapy sessions, which helps with his development. And, when he’s behind the wheel, he’s constantly smiling.
“It gives me butterflies,” said Austin’s mom, Jamie. “I'm really excited that he can do this, that he's capable of doing this. And, just seeing the joy on his face just gives us a lot of hope for the future.”
Austin’s parents say since his diagnosis, they’ve been amazed by their son’s development and accomplishments. They say it’s a reminder to never underestimate what people are capable of.
“If you have a son or a daughter with special needs, don't think of them as someone who can't do something,” Shawn said. “These kids can do anything. They have more ambition and more willpower than a lot of kids who are able to do things.”