6-Year-Old With Cerebral Palsy Catches First Fish With Some Engineered Assistance

Paxton Matthews is 6 years-old and he loves fishing. But Paxton has Cerebral Palsy, a disorder that impairs his ability to use his arms and legs, and that makes his favorite hobby difficult.

“About a year or two ago, we went fishing, and Paxton caught a fish,” said his mother Christina Matthews, “But I had to take the pole away to reel it in, and he started screaming and crying.”

Determined to find a way to give Paxton the freedom to fish independently, Christina reached out to the Inclusioneers, a non-profit group of volunteers who use engineering to give people with different abilities a chance to participate in the activities they enjoy.

“Nowadays, when you have growing technology and growing advancement in education, why not have them enjoy what most of us take for granted?” said Walid Abuhashim, a University of Akron biomedical engineering student, who worked to develop a solution for Paxton.

That solution was an automatic reeling system: when Paxton sees a tug on his line, he presses down on a large red button to quickly reel in his catch. As Emily Popio, another University of Akron biomedical engineering student put it, “We made a fishing pole that adapts to his lifestyle.”

Armed with his new pole, Paxton caught his first fish earlier this month. While the Inclusioneers are still working out kinks in Paxton’s new pole – a follow-up attempt did not go as smoothly – the promise of more fishing in the future has a deeper meaning for Paxton and his family.

“Just because he has special needs, doesn’t mean he can’t fish. We just have to adapt,” said Christina Matthews. “There are no limitations.”


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