Purchase teen helps put preschooler with disabilities in the driver's seat of tiny truck

A 4-year-old with a disability that affects his mobility is now able to get around more easily thanks to the generosity and innovation of a high school student from Purchase, N.Y.

The Cerebral Palsy of Westchester of Rye Brook, N.Y., welcomed Leo Rosen to the campus of its United Preschool Center, where he presented an F-150 retrofitted tiny truck to a student with special needs.

“I am interested in becoming an engineer, I love to build, and I want to do whatever I can to help others,” Rosen told United Preschool Director Marcy Weintraub.

Rosen handed over the keys to the 4-year-old student in April. Joined by family, CPW and UPC staff, the boy took a test drive in his truck, which was built to satisfy his specific needs, allowing him to move around easily by way of this battery-boosted ride.

The event was a culmination of a process that started last summer, when Rosen had reached out to Cerebral Palsy of Westchester, looking for a child who could benefit from such a car or truck.

He had received a donation of several trucks from the Connecticut GoBabyGo Collaborative in Hamden, which takes donated Fisher Price ride-on toy vehicles and outfits them for young children with disabilities, providing them the opportunity to move around independently.

With oversight via Zoom from an engineer who has experience with GoBabyGo modifications, as well as insight from the United Preschool’s occupational therapist Rosemary Kuttiyara, the teen modified the truck in his family’s garage. Additionally, Kuttiyara helped Rosen put together proper operational instructions for the child’s parents.

He is now adapting three other tiny cars that were donated by the Connecticut GoBabyGo Collaborative for other local preschool-aged children with disabilities.

A student at St. George’s School in Rhode Island, Rosen spent much of the past year studying remotely from his home in Purchase and came up with this project to keep himself engaged during quarantine.

He is looking to outfit more cars for CPW’s UPC students, and wants to find slightly bigger vehicles that could be modified for older school-age children with disabilities. “I love making kids happy,” he said as he watched the child successfully drive around on his new power wheels.

The GoBabyGo program began in 2012 to provide children with disabilities the opportunity for movement, mobility, and socialization by building ride-on cars. For more information, visit www.udel.edu/gobabygo.

The United Preschool Center at 456 North St. in White Plains, N.Y., offers an integrated learning experience for children with and without disabilities. It is a division of Cerebral Palsy of Westchester.

Now in its 72nd year, Cerebral Palsy of Westchester provides services to children and adults with all developmental disabilities including autism, neurological impairments, intellectual disabilities, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. For more information, visit cpwestchester.org.