Design of an Assistive Walking Device
A child with cerebral palsy experiences certain impairments towards normal function and development. Cerebral palsy makes typically routine daily functions a challenge, and perhaps the most prominent challenge is walking. Current assistive walking devices permit children with cerebral palsy to have some movement, but are bulky and not effective for every child. The purpose of this research is to design and build a more efficient walking device to help a specific child with cerebral palsy interact with his environment and possibly gain muscle tone. The goal this summer is to determine the key factors contributing to the design and development of this more effective assistive walking device through gait analysis, a mechanical analysis of current assistive walking devices, and an examination of the child’s daily activities.
Cerebral palsy, CP, is a disorder that causes a physical disability that affects movement and posture. Cerebral palsy is characterized by, but not limited to, poor muscle tone and posture, spasticity (a tightness in muscles that is characterized by continuous and painful muscle spasms 1), unsteady gait, limited mobility and speech impairments. 2 CP has negative effects on cognitive, emotional and social development because it often limits the ability to move in an efficient manner. 3 People with CP often experience difficulty controlling muscle movement and therefore tasks that may seem simple to most people become an overwhelming challenge to them. Walking, and even standing, can be a major problem for people with this disability because of asymmetical distribution of muscle tone, poor ability to shift weight and a forward displacement of center of gravity. 4 CP interferes with the ability to carry out daily activities. 5 Many people with CP spend their lives confined to a wheelchair. It is assumed that if a child is not walking by a certain age, he or she never will. 6 Although use of a wheelchair affords the child some mobility, access to social interaction remains limited and constant sitting is detrimental to physiological function and growth.
1 “NINDS Spasticity Information Page” 14 Feb. 2007. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Apr. 2007.
2 “Cerebral Palsy.” MedlinePlus. National Institue of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2007. Apr. 2007.
5 Bjornson, Kristie F., Basia Belza, Deborah Kartin, Rebecca Logsdon, and John F. McLaughlin “Ambulatory Physical Activity Performance in Youth With Cerebral Palsy and Youth Who Are Developing Typically.” Physical Therapy 87 (2007): 248-257.
6 Wu, Y.W., S.M. Day, D.J. Strauss, and R.M. Shavelle. “Prognosis for Ambulation in Cerebral Palsy: a Population-Based Study.” Pediatrics (2004): 1264-1271. Apr. 2007