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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 01:16 GMT 02:16 UK
Engineering a brighter future for Kieron
By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Kieron Norton is a bright intelligent young boy.

Kieron Norton
Kieron wants to be like his friends

He loves taking pictures and reading books.

But six-year-old Kieron has cerebral palsy and has to rely on others to do even the simplest of things.

He always needs someone to hold his camera, or turn his pages and, although he can hold a cup in both his hands, he is unable to tilt it himself to drink from it.

He would love to be able to hold a crayon or pen like his classmates and be able to make his own marks.

It is fantastic that they might be able to design anything that could give him some kind of independence
Sharon Norton, Kieron's mother

Now a group of 75 students from the University of Sheffield's faculty of engineering are hoping to make at least some of his wishes come true.

Each year the students are set a business challenge focusing on industrial problems.

But this year course tutor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon was so moved by Kieron's plight she decided the project would become "Making Kieron's life easier".

Elena said: "This is not just a way of teaching our students that engineering can be used in more 'human' contexts, but that it is also a professional responsibility of the engineer to consider issues such as disability."

And she said the project had fired the students' imagination.

Premature birth

Kieron and his family, from Worksop, Nottinghamshire, met the students to explain what would make his life easier.

He has asked for them to help find a way of being able to drink from his cup without help, and to hold his camera.

Paul Emery, 23, a fourth-year aerospace engineering student who has signed up for the project, said: "I am really excited.

"It will give me the opportunity to apply the engineering skills I've learnt so far and hopefully improve Kieron's quality of life."

Kieron meeting the University of Sheffield students
The students are helping Kieron as part of their course

Sharon Norton, Kieron's mother, said her son was born at just 24 weeks after she developed Hellp Syndrome- a life-threatening obstetric complication - and pre-eclampsia.

When he was born, he weighed just 1lb 5oz, and he spent his first six months in hospital.

Doctors first suspected he might have cerebral palsy at six weeks and he was diagnosed at when he was a year old.

Sharon explained that, because the cerebral palsy affects all his limbs, Kieron needs a lot of help, but added that he longs to do things for himself.

"He uses a communicator to tell us what he wants and we help him.

"He sees his classmates using pencils and longs to make his own mark."

Sharon said the whole family is delighted with the project. "It is fantastic that they might be able to design anything that could give him some kind of independence."




SEE ALSO
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A place where 'everyone is equal'
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Charity role for campaigning boy
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Cerebral palsy 'infection link'
06 Jan 06 |  Health

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