Dalton Minor enjoys riding the Pumper Car, and “fast,” as he will tell you. The Fitzmorris Elementary School student is quite adept at showing how it works, pushing his hands out as if he is …
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Dalton Minor enjoys riding the Pumper Car, and “fast,” as he will tell you. The Fitzmorris Elementary School student is quite adept at showing how it works, pushing his hands out as if he is pulling on the levers.
Now, he and his classmates can ride it as often as they like after the school purchased its own recently.
The Pumper Car, which is designed to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder with their mobility, sensory functions and gross motor skills, can also be used as an effective motivational tool in and out of the classroom.
“The kids love it,” said Adapted physical education teacher Katie Thompson. “It's a great way for them to get physical activity and motor breaks, to work their upper body strength, lower body strength, coordination, balance, and do a lot of therapy skills, particularly for nonverbal students.”
It also provides an avenue for students to release some excess energy, especially during the colder months when physical activities outdoors are limited.
“They're in control of it. They have complete control of where it goes and how fast it goes,” she said.
Andrea Meldrum, who handles marketing for Medved Autoplex, said that the dealership, which prides itself on giving back to the community, was more than happy to help provide the $400 Pumper Car for the school.
Fitzmorris has had an Autism Spectrum Disorder program for the last five years, Principal Johnny Horton said. Even though most students are working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, ASD students, which make up about 20 percent of the school's enrollment, are attending in-person.
“It's a big part of our population, a big part of our school community,” Horton explained. “Kids with Autism have many special needs.”
Before Fitzmorris Elementary purchased its own car, it had to share one with other schools in the district, getting it on loan for a week or two at a time. Now that won't be necessary.
“It really helps us give those opportunities to our students and supports the staff because they know they have this here,” Horton said. “It can also be used as an incentive because the students like it so much now that we have one at the school all the time.”
In all, Jeffco has eight Pumper Cars in the district, according to Thompson. Four were purchased through Medicaid, while others have been purchased individually by schools in the district, including Lakewood High School, Leadwood and West Jeff elementary schools.
Katy Stolzenfeld, who's a K-2 Adapted teacher at Fitzmorris, said that there is no set time for when her students will take a turn riding the Pumper Car. It could be used as an incentive to complete their work or something readily available when students need a break.
“Some of it just kind of depends on what they need. It can be more sensory relief,” said Stolzenfeld, who added that the break may be just what is needed to return a student to the classroom setting ready to focus on the next activity. “It depends on the kids and what they need at that moment.”
Whatever the need, one thing is for certain - one can work up a sweat riding the Pumper Car.
“It's a good workout,” said student Noah DaBelle, as, like Dalton, he explained how the car moves.
And, to be on the safe side, Noah offered a bit of advice on handling the vehicle.
“Whatever you do, don't slam into a wall. Whatever you do. OK,” Noah recommended.
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