Having children is a full-time job. Having a child with a disability can make things harder. Even small activities that we take for granted, like kicking a ball, can be a dream for many kids. But Debbie Elnatam is making these dreams become a reality for many children with disabilities thanks to a device she invented that allows them to walk.
5 Fun Facts is thrilled to tell you about this product that made so many kids smile.
When Debby Elnatam had Rotem, she was told that he had cerebral palsy, which affects his motor skills, muscle development, and posture. His disease forced him to spend the days sitting or lying down, and when his parents tried to hold his little arms so he could walk, the attempts were fruitless and exhausting. But his mom wasn’t going to let cerebral palsy stop her kid from exploring the world, and she found another way to help him walk.
She started working on the prototype when Rotem was 2. She designed and created a special harness that allowed her to attach his toddler body and feet to her waist and legs. This way, whenever she took a step, Rotem did too. Soon he was walking and he was smiling! And it was then that Debby knew she had to give this gift to other parents and kids with the same disabilities, so she created a plan.
She started looking for a company that would develop it and sell it online. After 11 years, thanks to the companies Firefly and Leckey, the Upsee, as it’s called, entered the market and is now available to all children and parents who want it. It works similarly to Debbie’s prototype. It allows the child to stand up by attaching him to an adult’s waist and legs. It also provides them with double sandals, so kids can take a step whenever the adult takes one.
Upsee has allowed many kids with this neuromuscular condition to do many things for the first time. It has helped them walk for the first time. They’ve been able to hug their siblings and friends for the first time. It has even allowed them to go for a walk on their sidewalk and say hello to their neighbors. “Frank’s Upsee arrived this week. He tried it for the first time with Daddy this morning and he loved it!, shared a moved mom, “he was walking up and down the hall and just staring at his feet in disbelief!
Debby is originally from New York but moved to Israel during the 80s. She’s a proud mom of 3 boys and sort of an inventor. Upsee is not her only creation — she’s been working on other projects to help more kids with cerebral palsy live a more normal life, like her son. These include devices to help kids crawl, sit, and stand. “I hope all my inventions will be commercialized because I have a lot to offer and I want to give other families the advantages I had,” she shared.
Their family believes that the Upsee gave Rotem the motivation to move and participate in family activities, like baking cookies. He is now 24 and, as Debby says, “He’s a beautiful and happy boy, and I think having a good childhood gave him confidence and a good outlook.”
The Upsee has allowed many kids to walk. Sure, they’re small distances and “just little steps, but they mean the world to someone.” What other activities do you think would make kids with disabilities feel more included in social life? Write your theories in the comments!