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Mukilteo local helps adapt toys for special needs children through UW-based program


Last updated 11/29/2017 at Noon

Brandon Nguyen (far right) and fellow HuskyADAPT members at the National Student Conclave. From left to right, Shawn Israel, Heather Feldner, Megan Thomas, Francesca Lahoz, Aileen Isakharova and Brandon Nguyen. All members photographed are studying, or have studied, physical therapy.

Brandon Nguyen is a busy man. Having finished his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and working on a graduate degree in physical therapy, he spends a large amount of his time adapting toys for special needs children.

Nguyen, a Mukilteo local who graduated from Archbishop Murphy, is a chair member for HuskyADAPT, a UW organization that works with community members, health clinics and families to adapt toys and other products for children and people with special needs.

“Our mission is to foster an inclusive, sustainable, and multidisciplinary community supporting accessible design and play technology to empower individuals with disabilities.”

Nguyen and the organization have had a lot of success, which has allowed them to present their work at different conferences in the area.

“We adapt toys for children with special needs and design solutions to accessibility challenges,” Nguyen said. “I recently presented at a national physical therapy conference adapting toys for children with special needs, which will be donated to the Providence Children's Center in Everett.”

Providence gave Nguyen a grant to go buy the toys that he helped adapt.

Those toys will be donated this Friday afternoon, and include trains, fire trucks and what Nguyen called a “ball popper” that pops a ball up in the air and then rolls down a track.

“We mod the toys,” Nguyen said. “We’ll open them up and add switches and components to make them more accessible for the children to play with.”

HuskyADAPT is a school-based organization that is supported by many of the different departments that the University of Washington offers. It includes students from a variety of majors and classes on campus.

“HuskyADAPT is supported by UW Bioengineering Outreach, Mechanical Engineering Ability and Innovation Lab, and the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology,” Nguyen said. “We have a good mix of students from rehabilitation medicine, engineering, health sciences and education.”

Nguyen said his experience with mechanical engineering allows him to adapt some of the toys in less than 30 minutes.

“Kids with special needs often don’t have the same play experiences as other children,” Nguyen said. “These toys give them the opportunity to have a similar play experience as another child. Kids learn through playing.”

Nguyen says that the organization has two other components besides the toy adaptation; GoBabyGo! and design. Nguyen serves as the chair member for GoBabyGo!

“GoBabyGo! is a super cool project that started in the University of Deleware,” Nguyen said. “It’s all about power mobility research. One thing they did was they modified a car for younger kids with mobility issues by making it so the child could push a button to move instead of using the pedals.”

The design component has to do with reaching out to community members who may need to have toys adapted for specific kids.

“We reach out to community members and we’re working with one child and one adult who have disabilities,” Nguyen said. “We’re constantly asking questions so we can design solutions.”

Nguyen shared a story about a young girl who loved to play the drums, but couldn’t physically hold the sticks because she was too weak.

“We 3-D printed a brace with a drumstick holder so she could play the drums,” he said.

Nguyen also said they’re working on designing a lunchbox that can easily be opened with one hand.

“It’s for kids who want to pack their own lunch and eat lunch independently at school without having to ask someone to open their lunchbox for them,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen hopes more community members can see the work that the organization does, and will take part in different events that the group leads.

“Throughout the year, we have adaptation workshops for students, clinicians and community members,” Nguyen said. “These toys go to therapy clinics, schools, or families of children with disabilities.

Toys that Brandon Nguyen and HuskyADAPT ended up altering for better use by special needs children.

“We also work with community members with disabilities to co-design low-cost innovative solutions to their needs.”

Nguyen wants people to reach out to the organization so they can work together to bring more adapted toys to children who need them.

“I’m hoping we can get more people to come to our events,” Nguyen said. “We have a few that are coming up, and we also have a lot of information on our organization’s website.”

If you’d like to contact Nguyen or one of his colleagues or would like more information on what HuskyADAPT has accomplished or what their future plans are, visit

Author Bio

Brandon Gustafson, Editor, Mukilteo Beacon

Brandon Gustafson was named editor of the Mukilteo Beacon in October, 2017. Born and raised in Mukilteo, Brandon attended Mukilteo Elementary, Olympic View Middle School, and Kamiak High School, graduating in 2013. After high school, Brandon attended Shoreline Community College, earning his associate's degree while playing for the school's baseball team. He then transferred to the University of Washington, where he graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in communications-journalism.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 425-347-5634
Twitter: @MukBeaconBPG


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