Rice University students create balancing device for Special Olympian


Four engineering students have created an assistive device to help 10-year-old Macy Bouchard make her way across a balance beam without the help of another person.

Bouchard suffers from developmental delays and blindness in one eye, making her disabilities incredibly difficult to overcome in the Special Olympics.

"Special Olympics is for kids with cognitive disabilities, and a lot of them don't have the physical disabilities that Macy has," her mom said. "On the beam, she has the most physical disabilities of anyone I've seen compete."

The little girl had been relying on coaches from Biron Gymnastics in west Houston to help her balance on the beam. Then in January, the students sought out another solution that would make Macy more independent. That's when they created the new device, a modified walker that includes a rectangular PVC frame and special wheels.

Now Macy can grab the PCV frame to balance herself and rely on the wheels to help her move forward and backward.

The device will remain at the gym so she and other children with disabilities can use it to advance their skills.

"I don't think of it as therapy, but I think of it as giving the same benefit that therapy provides," Krista Bouchard said. "There's a kind of a movement to not have your kid in therapy all the time, because they miss out so much. One of the things I love, love, love about this is the interaction between the kids."

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