Watch CBS News

Carpenter builds a better life for special needs children

A physical therapist in New York's public school system is using the talents he learned as a carpenter to help some of his students
Carpenter using special skills to help special kids 02:06

BROOKYLN -- Michael Konstalid has been a physical therapist in the New York Public School System for eight years. He pursued the job because of his father.

"My father had a neuromuscular condition. Growing up, becoming a physical therapist, I realized he had a much more difficult challenging life than I ever knew," said Konstalid.

en quijano carpenter
Michael Konstalid with his father Michael Konstalid

His father inspired him in another way too: he was a carpenter. Growing up, he would watch his dad build things in his shop -- a skill he now brings into the school.

"It started with repairing a wheelchair or building a balance beam and it developed into I could build you a desk."

Konstalid says the chairs kids use can have a big impact on how they learn. So he started working out of a makeshift workshop in the basement of a Brooklyn elementary school. He builds customized furniture out of salvaged scraps of wood.

EN Quijano carpenter 3
Michael Konstalid builds furniture for special needs children CBS News

"A child who has balance coordination issues, they are trying to learn to the best of their ability to solve a math problem or do a reading assignment. If your feet aren't on the floor you can't be there mentally," Konstalid said of how furniture can have an impact on learning for disabled kids.

He has created more than 80 original pieces, like a staircase to help a young girl get off the bus, a lunch tray holder for students confined to wheelchairs, and a modified classroom chair for Hasan Mahmud, who has a hard time sitting in a typical one.

"He loves the fact that he is sitting a special chair but nobody treats him any differently."

Konstalid enlists the kids to help build their piece of furniture to give the students a sense of ownership.

"I think that it's perfect," Hasan said of his chair.

EN Quijano carpenter 2
Michael Konstalid helps Hasan Mahmud build a chair CBS News

In using these pieces of discarded wood, Michael Konstalid sees what others can sometimes miss: Limitless possibilities.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.