Adapted Garden Tools for a Child with TAR Syndrome

Designers: Christopher Kobe, Matthew Baron, and Kalen Riley

Client Coordinator: Anne Stanton, OT

Supervising Professor:  Kevin Caves and Richard Goldberg


Our client is an active, resourceful, intelligent 12 year old boy.   He was born with a rare genetic condition called TAR (thrombocytopenia with absent radius) Syndrome.  In addition to the missing radius bone in his forearm, our client has a shortened humerus and an immobilized right knee and left ankle joint.  As a result, he has restricted movement of his extremities, resulting in limited grip, reach, strength, and mobility.  In addition, our client quickly fatigues after standing up for a short period.

Our client is interesting in gardening, but it is difficult for him to independently maintain a garden due to the limitations resulting from TAR Syndrome.  Our goal is to develop custom tools and equipment that will enable him to perform all of the desired gardening tasks.  Conventional and ergonomic tools available on the commercial market do not adequately satisfy our client’s needs.  In his past gardening experiences with store-bought tools, he could not generate enough force to manipulate the soil.  As a result, he needs custom tools to accomplish tasks needed for gardening.










Our custom tools take advantage of the client’s core and lower body strength as well as the dexterity in his feet.  The tools enable him to effectively and easily carry out necessary gardening tasks, such as raking, shoveling, and manipulating the soil, so that he can plant and harvest crops.  Perhaps most important though, these tools are enjoyable for our client to use and have helped his passion for gardening grow even stronger.  The client said that the tools “will help me grow foods that I like and have given me something to do independently that I enjoy and can have fun doing”.


The overall design of our project includes three types of devices: a weeding rod, a tool attachment to the client’s shoe, and an integrated body-rod with tool. These three tools can be used to collectively fill all roles of maintaining a garden. The client can use the rod for weeding, the shoe attachment for digging and raking, and the integrated body-rod for hoeing.

Weeding Rod: This tool enables the client to remove weeds from the garden.  It consists of a rod that is attached to a conventional, hand-held weeding tool at its working end. The rod is 4.5 ft long, 0.625 inch diameter, and made of aluminum.  To attach the rod to the weeding tool, we made a connector rod of ½ inch diameter and 8 inches in length, also made of aluminum.  The weeding tool inserted into a bored out portion of the connector (diameter of ½ inch matches hollow tool rod inner diameter of ½ inch), and we added two bolts for increased strength.  The other end of the connector is solid, and we cold-welded it to the main rod for a secure fit.  To use this tool, the client holds the rod against his body and drives the tool into weed-ridden soil.  We attached a foot peg near the working end to help in directing and driving the tool.  This peg is a ½ inch diameter aluminum rod that is bolted onto a set screw collar, which is then secured to the rod.  The client uses his foot to help move the working end up and down to displace weeds.

Shoe Tool: The client uses this device for raking and shoveling soil.  The base structure is a commercial bike pedal with a toe clip.  This connects to a metal tool, either a small rake or shovel, which was adapted from a conventional store-bought tool and inserted into a metal connecting block under the pedal.  The connecting block is made from an aluminum plate and milled into a T shape.  The tool inserts into the bottom end of the “T”, and the flat end of the connector is bolted to the front of the bike pedal.  The toe clip is also bolted onto the pedal and it secures the client’s shoe to the device.  For securing these connections, there are set screws inserted through the “T” connector and into milled slots on the tool.  A fender washer holds the top, flat surface of the toe clip so that it does not flex up when used.  To use this tool, the client slips his foot into the attached shoe pedal and performs the task while seated.

Integrated Body-Rod: This device combines characteristics of both previous devices.  It incorporates a hoe that is harvested from a store-bought tool, a “J” shaped rod that wraps around the client’s back, and a foot peg attached to the rod that enables the client to generate extra force with his foot.   A rectangular connection device is inserted into the hoe tool head and screwed on.  This is then connected to the rod by two bolts.  The opposing end of the rod has a padded brace made by bending the end of the metal rod to mold around the client’s back and neck.  This allows the client to pull back on the device to assist in action.  An arm brace is positioned perpendicular to the rod and angled towards the client’s body to allow him to stabilize the device.  This is constructed from ½ inch aluminum rod that is bolted onto a set screw collar, which is then secured to the rod.  This design allows the body-rod to be free of any deformation from connection devices and maintain its structural integrity.  To use this tool, the client sits on a stool, grasps the rod and inserts his foot into the toe clip, and uses his entire body to assist in hoeing.

The overall cost of these devices was $328.

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