Teenager with cerebral palsy designs device to help him be active





Posted

October 04, 2019 06:40:24

For Riley Saban there is no better feeling than gliding along a river on a paddleboard alongside his friends, family, and trusty dog Tiny.

Key points:

  • Riley Saban, 16, lives with quadriplegia cerebral palsy
  • Riley and his father Clint Saban designed a device which helps Riley stay upright
  • They hope their invention will one day help other people with disabilities

But what should be a carefree afternoon on the water comes with extra challenges for the 16-year-old, who lives with quadriplegia cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair.

It is a challenge Riley is more than willing to face, his dad Clint Saban told 7.30.

“He’s an extremely determined and driven individual,” Mr Saban said. “Extremely.”

Not wanting to miss out on the fun, the father and son have used customised equipment to allow Riley to sit upright on the paddleboard, securely attached with his spine supported.

“Ever since he was young, we’ve always gone through the process of making stuff for Riley to make activities accessible,” Mr Saban said.

“We found that if Riley wasn’t able to do it, most often our family wouldn’t take part in that activity. It was always we wanted to do it as a family and I think that’s really important.

“Just because someone is living with a physical disability, doesn’t mean they should miss out on what the world has to offer.”

Now the father and son have turned some of their customised gear into an invention they hope will help other people with physical disabilities be more active.

“The whole concept … came about when I couldn’t always participate in activities,” Riley said using a computerised speaking device.

“I realised that it isn’t my physical disability that prevents me from participating — it’s the man-made environment that stops me.”

The invention is a back brace that attaches to a vest to reinforce and support the spine, core and neck.

“Quite often, if someone is living with a moderate to severe physical disability, they need that extra support to hold themselves upright and to hold themselves in the right alignment,” Mr Saban said.

The prototype, which is still in development, is designed to be customisable to fit the wearer’s back, with individual vertebrae-like pieces able to be moved and adjusted to suit the spine’s curvature.

The father-and-son co-founders designed the prototype together, with Riley being “test pilot” and providing feedback.

“He’s very honest — brutally honest,” Mr Saban joked.

As well as using the device to sit on a paddleboard, they have also used it in trials to allow Riley to go swimming and even drive a go-kart with friends.

“It has had a huge impact on my life and I would like to give others the same opportunities as me,” Riley said.

They are hoping to turn their start-up, Polyspine, into a global company. They have already taken out a global patent on the design and are working with designers and engineers.

“A lot of the time, I’ll have these crazy ideas and I’ll often have them in the middle of the night … and then the next day, we’ll get to work and put our minds together and see what we can come up with,” Mr Saban said.

Cerebral palsy expert associate professor Prue Morgan, who heads up the Physiotherapy Department at Monash University, has taken a look at photos of the prototype and thinks it has great potential “to allow young people to get out and about and do what normal young people like to do”.

“I’m excited to see how this might be able to be used for a wide range of patients similar to cerebral palsy. It applies fairly simple technology, but in a really interesting and portable way,” she told 7.30.

The product is still at least a year away, with a series of industry and regulatory approvals to be cleared before it goes to market.

Topics:

cerebral-palsy,

disabilities,

inventions,

australia



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