I know a sweet 1yo girl who had a spinal stroke in utero and has very limited use of her arms and hands. She seems to have some control of movement in her legs and feet.
Ouch, such is always terrible!
My granddaughter (about same age) was a couple of months premature and suffer a (luckily very light) form of spastic paralysis, has a "lazy" eye and need glasses, but I have faith in the huge plasticity of a childs brain.
Exercise, exercise, exercise - that's how that kind of wonders happen and any toy that help in that is pure medicine
I am very interested in learning more about how robotics could provide opportunities for her to play and learn like other children. For example, Dream Racer created a toy truck that can be controlled by tilting the head forward, backwards, left or right to drive the truck around. (Simply tilting the head forward, backwards, left or right will drive the tractor around.) What else could be controlled by her head movement? Could she turn on music? Make a toy dog run (she would like that much better than a truck!) ?
Anything that catches her interest and makes her want to do stuff are great motivators and learning to control a toy would be a good start IMO. Don't plan anything larger than that for now though, it's much easier when you are on the other side of this project.
For head tilting control, a dual axis accelerometer is needed and that's not something for a first project. Buying a Dream Racer to use the technology in other stuff is outrageous expensive
If the head unit could be bought as a replacement part, it might be worth using that (but it would need you to be able to decode its transmissions (and again, not a beginner project).
How would I go about getting a toy custom designed for her?? Is it possible that a local college's robotic club might be interested in the project? We live in Boston near MIT and a number of other colleges and universities.
You might get some department interested in using the idea for a student project, especially if you claim willingness to finance the parts.
It might be a little below MIT standard though and I'd see it more as a group project in a college, so shoot out emails to the local colleges, explaining the project and somebody may bite.
Also, if you can recommend good websites or books on the subject I would be very interested. Keep in mind I do not have a technical background - but I'm eager to learn :-)
This site has got tutorials to learn from and this forum to get help when you stumble.
Not having a technical background can be so many things. What kind of tools do you own and do you make any DIY at all?
In mechatronics (the more formal name for all things robotics), you have 3 disciplines to learn: Mechanics, electronics and programming. Do you have any experience at all in any of them?
She can bend and kick her legs. She has good head control (getting stronger every day) and she can move her shoulders. She can not move her arms or hands or support herself sitting or standing.
Then the legs would be good for controlling something, perhaps in addition to head movement. It will all help her getting better control over her body.
As I don't know her case, I may be totally wrong, but I'd make some interesting (to her) functions available only by very simple arm or hand movement - and then guide these movements to show her the rewards, to make her want to move them.
The key is to make every improvement have some sort of reward to drive the motor.
Whatever you choose, I hope you get some results!