It took only a few moments for Jaylen Arthur to discover the freedom that his new wheelchair provided him as he rolled it from one side of the room to the other.
Complications from premature birth at 34 weeks caused mobility and speech issues for the 2-year-old. For the past four months, Jaylen has been going through therapy at Our Children’s House in Waxahachie.
Jaylen's mother Jazmen Rogers said her son has made great strides in therapy, which he receives weekly at the facility and home.
“He is very active and has just started crawling this week. He has been rolling around and scooting around. You would think that with him being a ventilator patient it would slow him down. It doesn’t,” Rogers explained. “It delayed him as far as crawling and sitting up on his own, but as far as anything else it does not slow him down. Not one bit.”
Rogers was unsure of how well Jaylen would be able to maneuver the wheelchair but observed he'd built some strength from crawling around. As Jaylen takes on new challenges every day, his progress makes his mother proud.
“He caught on very fast. Now we have just got to watch out for our toes. I am excited as far as him wheeling himself,” Rogers noted.
Jaylen's father, Curtis Arthur, shared that his son takes the challenges presented to him with a positive attitude.
“I feel like whenever he goes into the room he brings up everybody’s day. I can’t be happier. I am very proud," Curtis expressed.
Curtis does therapeutic activities with his son at home to help him gain independence. Together they will army crawl or throwing a ball back and forth.
Andrea Curran, who is Jaylen's physical therapist, has worked with him to strengthen his core muscles. Together they work on his motor skills doing activities like getting up from the floor. Jaylen also stretches his arms and neck, and most recently, he's started to stand up a little bit on his own.
“We started off with rolling, and he has gained all of these skills," Curran explained. "He is really blossoming right now and is learning a lot of new things. He has spent a lot of his life in hospitals since he was born and hasn’t had the chance to learn those things."
She continued, “At first he would sit, but he would need help to sit up. He wasn’t able to move around on the floor very much. So he is starting to do that more and more. He has really gained a lot.”
Curran expressed the wheelchair is vital to Jaylen's development because it helps him to connect with his environment, playing and forming bonds with other children, therefore, helping him to grow more as a person.
“I can’t believe how quickly he has learned to propel himself and to turn,” Curran said. “I have worked with a lot of older kids with wheelchairs. It takes them a while to learn how to coordinate to turn and how to go forward and how to go backward. He is just taking to it so automatically.”
Our Children’s House is working with Jaylen on his communication skills as well. He currently cannot speak due to his dependence on a ventilator and complications from birth. One of the tools that the staff at Our Children’s House is using to help him is an augmentative communication device. This device works to supplement speech, which helps people find a way to communicate with others.
Rakiya Farinwata, who is Jaylen's in-home nurse, said he is very driven.
“He is easy to work with, and he is very smart. You teach him one time, and by the second time, he knows. He is very attentive,” Farinwata shared. “We work on many things. When we are at home, we try to continue what he has learned here. It is a joy working with him, and he learns fast. He understands quickly.”
Margaret Scholl, who is the Founder of Early Wheels and a physical therapist, started the nonprofit a year ago as a way to give back to others. Over the past year, she has been able to help more than 30 children gain independence through the chairs she builds.
Jaylen's wheelchair was donated to him at no cost from the nonprofit. Scholl shared that she works with families to provide them with a wheelchair that is accustomed to fit their child and their needs.
“I met them two weeks ago and had a few different seats to try and figure out what we wanted and what we didn't want. They had a pretty specific list,” Scholl said. “They wanted to have something for the vent, we needed a push handle, they wanted shoulder straps for him and some support through the side."
Based on the parent's requests, she built Jaylen's first wheelchair.
Scholl said that as the child grows, she'll work with the family so the wheelchair will continue to meet Jaylen's needs.
“It makes my heart happy. That is why I am a therapist,” Scholl affirmed. “I have been a therapist for almost 30 years, and this is my way of giving back.”
According to its website, Early Wheels' mission is to provide motor opportunities to children with disabilities from the ages zero to four, using repurposed toys and baby equipment.
For more information about Early Wheels go to its website at www.earlywheels.org. To follow Jaylen's progress go search for Jaylen Arthur’s Fan Page on Facebook.