By Debbie Kelley
The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Seventh- and eighth-grade students at Janitell Middle School created a custom-designed gripping tool for a 9 year old student who is suffering from condition that makes it difficult to write.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
By the end of the school day, 9-year-old Natalie Quintana is worn out from writing.
Arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that contracts joints and weakens muscles, makes it hard to make a pencil dance across paper.
But a custom-designed gripping tool that seventh- and eighth-grade students at Janitell Middle School created for Natalie’s right hand is making a big difference.
“It helps me write,” says Natalie. “I like that it keeps my hand supported and doesn’t keep my arm up, so I write better.”
Natalie’s disability affects all four limbs, leaving her fingers and wrists curved inward. Braces help keep her legs straight in her wheelchair.
The awkward positioning of her hand and arm elevates Natalie’s shoulder and tires her, said Jaimie Hunsicker, an occupational therapist for Widefield School District 3, “She currently has to rotate her hand, and we’re concerned about fatigue, as she gets older and has to write more at school,” said Hunsicker. “That’s why we’re trying to deal with this now.”
Despite her physical limitations, Natalie’s spirits are high.
“She’s a little diva,” jokes her mom, Michelle Castillo.
Natalie, a fourth-grader at French Elementary School in Security/Widefield aspires to be a meteorologist and loves to read and write.
“She seems to be motivated by the pencil grip,” her mom said. “It’s great they were able to do something for her.”
Over the summer, Natalie practiced with the plastic purple instrument that has a ring for her thumb and space for her index and middle finger to rest on top.
Using a pencil held in the grip, she’s been finding her way through mazes on paper and doing other fun activities.
The invention can be chalked up to brilliant serendipity.