Michael Jones has a smile that lights up a room.
The 5-year-old seems to enjoy kindergarten at Evans Elementary School, but he needed help to be successful.
That help came in the form of the Evans High School construction class, which built Michael a special chair to accommodate the muscle and motor control issues associated with his cerebral palsy.
"That was such a sweet thing for those boys to do," said Terri Exum, Michael's school paraprofessional.
Exum said Michael could not sit up straight in standard chairs, so school system physical therapist Judy Beatty, who treats Michael, researched special chairs, which cost about $600.
"Imagine trying to hold onto a table to keep from falling to the side while also trying to write, color or read a book," Beatty said. "This is how it may feel when a student has significant balance difficulties and sits in a standard chair to work in."
Beatty said she examined Michael's needs -- an adjustable chair with a flat seat, side supports and a seat belt -- and determined that having a chair built for him would be more cost-effective.
She contacted Jason Stewart, Evans High's construction class teacher. His class built Michael a special playground swing last fall.
"We try to do as much as we can community-orientedwise," Stewart said.
The class designed and built two specialty chairs -- one for Michael and another for a special-needs preschool pupil.
Stewart said Meyer Decorative Services donated beech wood and other materials to build the chair, which cost about $72 to make. Beatty made the pads.
"It is real, real strong stuff," Stewart said of the wood. "You want that to be durable for the children because they use it for multiple years."
Michael's chair is fully adjustable, including seat height, back rests, and arm and leg rests. It includes a seat belt so Michael can concentrate on his lesson, not on his balance. Removing that distraction helps Michael focus and use his hands for coloring, writing and other school tasks.
"He can now use his arms to work at the table without having to worry about losing his balance and falling to the side," Beatty said.
Because the chair is adjustable, it can accommodate Michael's growth for several years.
The new chair allows Michael to go about the business of being a popular kindergartner.
"He's like the most popular guy in the whole school," Exum said. "We go for a walk around the school and we have to stop every 20 feet to let (people) give him kisses."
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