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Power Pumper

Mike Jones spent the first part of his life living in a railroad car in a sparsely populated area in Utah. By 11 years of age, he was working as a farmhand. There, he learned the fundamental rule of farming: if your machine breaks while you’re running it, you’re responsible for fixing it.

Because he didn’t have the money when the machine broke, he had his first lesson in taking things apart and putting them back together again. When he ended up in a Children’s Hospital at the age of 17, he really hadn’t given much thought of what he would do with his life, but there, while lying in bed—as horrible as he felt—another kid in the same room was in far worse shape, but he couldn’t do anything about it but watch him suffer.

It was at that moment that he decided he wanted to do something to help kids, like, maybe, become a pediatrician or something equally helpful. Now, 47 years later—after college, marriage, raising a family, and a career in the concrete business—Mike Jones has discovered he’s doing what he had hoped to do so many years before while lying in a hospital bed.

He’s helping children—and, particularly, children with special needs and on the autism spectrum—in a way he never, ever expected.

He got the idea to develop the Power Pumper when his son’s Christmas scooter was stolen back in the early 1990s. When he went to the store to replace the scooter, he saw hundreds of expensive bikes. That observation caused him to ask himself, “How can I make a ride-on toy so it would work better, be safer, and last longer?”

So, based on a lifetime of experience of putting things together, he created the first “Power Pumper,” a peddle “bike” that exceeds American, European, and Canadian safety standards, according to Jones. He subsequently received an Industrial Design Excellence Award (IDEA)for the Power Pumper’s design and engineering (in a competition of over 16,000 companies throughout the world!)

The ride-on vehicle, which is propelled by a pumping motion like a rowing machine, began as a toy, which he and his then-business partners and corporation began marketing to large retailers nationally to sell to parents for their children. What began to happen next went far beyond Jones’ initial plans for the Power Pumper. To his surprise, it became a way to help special needs children.

He and his business partners (Columbia-Inland Corporation) discovered that the largest group of customers for their product turned out to be hospitals and special needs’ schools and facilities, who they learned were buying the Power Pumper for physical fitness, rehabilitation, muscle, and balance coordination, among numerous other attributes they later discovered.

The hospitals, rehab facilities, and educators realized that this Power Pumper “ride-on toy” for their kids was safe and durable beyond anyone’s expectations, but it also had one other fantastic attribute: the kids absolutely loved it. In fact, they liked the Power Pumper so much, one rehab hospital in Portland, OR had to post a notice for parents: “Parents—This is not a toy! It’s therapy equipment!”

“When kids get in, they don’t feel like they’re different or have special needs,” Jones said. “Everyone wants to be them. It’s something they’ve never experienced before.”

That experience, in itself, is a parent’s dream for a child on the autism spectrum; just as it’s important that kids basically can’t fall off this “bike.”

As wonderful as those two things are, the physical educators, therapists and clinicians began seeing other improvements with their special needs children, which is what-is-known in medical and research circles as “anecdotal evidence.” Reports kept streaming in to the inventor and Columbia-Island Corporation that many of the characteristics of autism dissipated after even short time periods of use of the Power Pumper. In some cases, children who weren’t talking, began singing and talking; others who stimmed, stop stimming, according to Jones.

These reports from individuals working with children on the autism spectrum and with Down’s syndrome piqued the interest of researchers, who then began studying the merits of the Power Pumper, in “helping 29 different special needs, including Down’s syndrome, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).”1

In the University of Hawaii’s Oahu Central District, they found that children using the Power Pumper not only increased their academic responding, they also decreased “problem” behaviors and were motivated to choose the Power Pumper during their break times, when given a choice of re-enforcers.1

Dr. Brian Rogers, professor of pediatrics and Director of the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center at Oregon Health and Science University states that “Oregon therapists are recognizing the merits of the Power Pumper as an effective tool in the rehabilitation of children with special needs including Autism to Spina Bifida to Cerebral Palsy.

“The Power Pumper has been utilized at many respected institutions including the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins, Duke Children’s Hospital, and others, to back up these claims.

“Reported improvements have been seen in the areas of bilateral coordination, motor coordination, building endurance, muscle tone, posture stability, directionality, upper and lower extremity strength, organization of the vestibular and proprioceptive and tactile systems, praxis and motor planning, visual motor skills, spatial awareness, regulation of activity level, and social skills.”2

In addition, Dr. Rogers points out that they love it because it gets children excited about doing therapy and “produces the results they need.”

Dr. Janet L. Hauck, Assistant Professor of the Physical Activity in Youth with Disabilities Laboratory at University of Michigan’s Department of Kinesiology, focused on physical activity and motor skill intervention development for infants and children with Down’s syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Hauck points out that “the Pumper Car, much like a bicycle or other riding device, is very individualized. The Pumper Car can also support a typical adult’s weight, meaning an adult can model riding along-side their student or patient. The ability to demonstrate and participate as a practitioner is ideal when working with children with disabilities.”3

In scientific studies across the country, institutions are seeing links between the sensory and motor-oriented intervention to increased social, communication, cognitive, and adaptive behavior. The Power Pumper is gathering broad evidence-based research showing benefits to those with Down’s syndrome and for kids with ASD.
In simpler terms, when the kids can ride in the Power Pumper, researchers were finding they can better concentrate academically, which affects their learning abilities, memory retention, and ability to think. They also found in some studies, the children with ASD are becoming more social and flexible in their behaviors.

Jones reported that those in the scientific and educational fields felt the ramifications of the use of the Power Pumper was important enough to request another, younger version be created, particularly for those on the autism spectrum.

“Initially, I couldn’t understand why people kept pressing me to develop a smaller model,” said Jones, “and, given its cost to do so, we were reluctant to create it, but then I realized it’s not a size issue; it’s a time issue, because the time the most can be achieved with a child on the autism spectrum is between 18 months and four years.”

So, the Power Pumper Jr. was born, specifically to offer the same opportunities for young children on the spectrum, because the swaying motion back and forth that is part of the definition of the Power Pumper’s use appears to be significant.

“It was my dream that it get recognition,” the inventor Jones says. “Helping those with special needs is not anything I planned when I started this, so I can’t take credit. But it’s personally very exciting, because it’s been my life’s mission.”

Mike Jones&Grand daughter

For more information, visit www.powerpumper.com. If you would like to win a Power Pumper, please subscribe to be entered into the drawing! Ends May 30, 2016!

Lyn Dunsavage Young was the former founder and publisher of The Dallas Downtown News, which was awarded the Katie for the best weekly in the state of Texas. She is the coauthor of five books and presently handles the national media coverage and marketing for Future Horizons.


  1. In 2005, the Children’s Mobility Foundation donated 15 Pumper Cars to the Central District Autism Program in Hawaii. University of Hawaii. “The Effects a Sensorimotor Ride-on Utility Has on Stereotyped Behaviors, Academic Responding, and Social Interactions in Children with Autism.” Aletha Gomez, Ph.D., Autism Specialist, Oahu Central District.
  2. Brian Rogers, Oregon Health and Science Center, Oregon Health & Science University. Letter of Impact.
  3. Janet L. Hauck & Dale A. Ulrich (2015): “Acute Effects of a Therapeutic Mobility Device on Physical Activity and Heart Rate in Children With Down Syndrome,” Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, DOI: 10.1080/02701367.2015.1046980.

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