Virginia Tech students create head support device to help 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy

The device aids in muscle control, which Finn’s mother says he lacks in his head and neck

Walking and moving our heads are tasks that a lot of us don’t think twice about.

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Walking and moving our heads are tasks that a lot of us don’t think twice about.

But for 12-year-old Finn McGrath of Richmond, even the smallest step calls for celebration.

Taking steps is a huge undertaking for Finn, who has cerebral palsy.

Finn’s mother, Laura McGrath explained that this is due to a lack of muscle control in his head and neck.

“The head really becomes the limiting factor,” she said. “Because if you’re challenged from a physical standpoint, you can only work on so many things at once.”

Laura is one of Finn’s biggest advocates, going as far as pitching the idea for a new type of head support to the Biomedical Engineering program at Virginia Tech.

“I would not want to be doing anything else,” senior Biomedical Engineering student Austin Painter said.

Dozens of prototypes and sleepless nights led this senior design team to their latest model.

They presented it to Finn and Laura on Easter in Richmond.

“We were able to see him smiling as can be,” Painter said. “So happy to actually have eye-level vision and actually be able to rotate his head and look around.”

But this project goes beyond Finn. The hope is that it is just the beginning of innovation for those struggling with muscle control.

“I’m just excited that for all the other people out there that struggle with this issue that there might be something that will improve so vastly their quality of life,” Laura said.

Even though cerebral palsy limits Finn in some ways, his mom wants everyone to know that he is so much more than his disability.

“I love it when people can look beyond their expectations of what’s typical and really enjoy that about that about someone with a disability,” Laura said.