McGyver those election signs for Schreiber kids

I recently attended a make-and-take seminar entitled “Creating Assistive Technology Solutions in Minutes,” and it featured the creative genius of Therese Willkomm, who holds a doctorate in assistive technology and is known as the assistive technology McGyver.

She is a nationally recognized guru for her work in making solutions in minutes using everyday materials. We had the opportunity to work with a variety of materials including acrylic, corner guard, PVC pipe, and Loc-Line hose connectors, as well as a variety of adhesives, fasteners, and tools. We made several items including book and iPad stands, mounts for wheelchairs and table tops, and a universal cuff that can hold a marker, eating utensil, or any other tool for someone with a weak or absent grasp. We even made a hands-free marshmallow shooter (and used it to have a mass marshmallow battle during break).

One of my favorite materials used was corrugated plastic, frequently used to make yard signs like the ones that pop up during election season. Over the years, Therese has fabricated hundreds of solutions using corrugated plastic. The material is strong, inexpensive and easy to work with.

After an election, she asks both the Democratic and Republican parties as well as individual voters to donate their signs rather than discard them. This is a great way to eliminate trash from the environment and reuse it in a way to benefit individuals with disabilities. It’s a win-win situation!

So if you had a sign in your yard and it is now cluttering up your garage, don’t toss it in the trash. Bring it to Schreiber Pediatric, where the occupational therapists can turn it into a desktop iPad or iPhone holder, portable slant board, playing card holder, book holder or mount, or one of a myriad of other solutions for the many children we serve. These solutions can save families a great deal of money that they would otherwise spend on commercially available items.

So put those discarded signs to use, put election season behind you, and help a child with a disability to become more independent today!

Becky Smith is an occupational therapist at Schreiber with more than 26 years of experience in pediatric occupational therapy. She is also a certified infant massage instructor with the International Association of Infant Massage.