Matty Dunn’s morning routine is a bit more difficult than most 11-year-olds.
- A boy from Tasmania’s north-west has a disability that means he has shortened limbs and could not put deodorant on by himself
- His friend Murphy used his school break times to design and 3D print a deodorant holder
- The boys were introduced through a program aimed at bringing together students from mainstream and support schools
His shortened limbs make one part of the getting-ready process pretty hard — putting on deodorant.
That was until his new friend, 13-year-old Murphy Mansfield created a device that could help.
Matty and Murphy met two years ago when Murphy’s school, Montello Primary in Burnie in Tasmania’s north-west, started visiting Murphy’s class at the North West Support School.
When a teacher saw their burgeoning friendship and suggested Murphy could help Matty with his deodorant problem, he didn’t have to be asked twice.
“When I started going up to the Support School, I wanted to help and make it easier for people,” he said.
Working mostly in his recess and lunchtimes, Murphy designed a plastic deodorant holder that could essentially extend Matty’s arm and enable him to reach his armpit.
The finished product was made using a 3D printer at Montello Primary with the design help of another student, Addison.
“I’ve always been a very hands-on kind of person so being able to use the 3D printer was much easier than trying to draw it,” Murphy said.
The project wasn’t an overnight success, with early iterations turning out “like a blob”.
“The first one we did took six hours to print, was black and had Matty’s name on it but it had a gap in it that we tried to fix but couldn’t.”
Friendship formed through technology
Matty has a very rare blood disorder called Fanconi anaemia, which prevents bone marrow from properly creating new blood cells, which has caused his shortened limbs and stature.
He’s one of only about 20 Australians to have the little-known disease.
It’s also affected Matty’s eardrums, so he wears a hearing aid and does balance exercises multiple times a week.
Being able to put on his own deodorant is an important demonstration of independence.
While Murphy has now gone to high school, the two still spend a lot of time together and work on finessing the design of the deodorant holder.
“When I saw him using his iPad with his shortened limbs, I thought that was cooler than just me using a phone,” Murphy said.
“I just love Matty’s personality — he’s so funny and he brightens my day.”
Matty said he always looked forward to Murphy coming to see him to play games and work together.
“He’s very good at designing things for me … he’s very kind and caring and helps me with everything I need help with.”
Program bringing students together
Murphy started visiting the North West Support School as part of the Young Leaders of Tasmania buddy program.
The program’s chief executive, Keren Franks, said it built leadership in students both with and without a disability.
“During the full school year, the buddies are encouraged to develop goals, form meaningful relationships and think inclusively about disability,” she said.
Ms Franks said the friendship between Matt and Murphy was a perfect example of the program achieving its goals.
“We want to create a new normal of diversity within communities so if a lot of children don’t get exposure to people living with disabilities, it’s good to see them making friends and thinking inclusively early on.”