Michael Konstalid, a roaming physical therapist for the New York City Education Department, is a man on a mission. His goal: To ensure that every special needs student under his care gets the furniture they deserve to get through school. To that end, he turns discarded items into furniture that helps kids with disabilities be more independent.
Physical therapy is provided by the public school system, and is designed to help children with their motor skills to do things like walk down the hallways, maneuver through the lunchroom, sit in class and generally navigate their environment.
Now while the Education Department is responsible for buying physical therapy equipment for students, adaptive furniture for special needs kids is often standardized. Most often than not, they do not work for the child in question.
In Mr. Konstalid’s experience, the furniture needs to be specially built for the child and this can easily be very expensive. Neither the child’s parents nor the public school has the funding to provide customized furniture.
Mr. Konstalid has taken it upon himself to build equipment for such children. His creations are often made from broken furniture, PVC pipes…in fact anything that can help children improve their coordination.
From turning a discarded bookcase into a small set of steps to help a little girl get on and off the school bus by herself to building several kinds of specialty chairs, Mr. Konstalid is always devising ways to make each day a little easier and fun for the kids.
“He reincarnates things,” said Joe Natoli, the building manager at Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
It’s no wonder that Mr. Konstalid’s customized creations have won the hearts of teaching staff, parents, and of course, students.