Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability for children according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disorder affects kids at different severity levels. Many children with cerebral palsy face lack of coordination and strength, making crawling difficult. Crawling is important to a child’s development because that is how babies learn how to explore the world and gain knowledge. Thanks to two professors from the Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Oklahoma, and their new invention called SIPPC, infants with cerebral palsy can investigate their surroundings just like their peers.
Dr. Thubi Kolobe, a University of Oklahoma professor, met Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Dr. Peter Pidcoe at a New Orleans conference years ago. They used their unique backgrounds in engineering and physical therapy to create SIPPC.
"I was very involved with many infants who have cerebral palsy, and I saw them kicking and kicking and swiping their arms, but as they grew older they were losing these movements and falling more and more behind," Kolobe said. "I felt like the intervention that would help these babies had to somehow, some way harness their early continuous movement and keep it going so they didn't lose it."
Dr. Kolobe wanted to create a device that went under these children to reinforce moving. They had the expertise but needed the funding to make the device a reality so the professors applied to and won multiple grants that allowed their device come to life. Thus, the Self-Initiated Prone Progressive Crawler was born.
The unique design of the SIPPC allows it to be used by children with varying degrees of neurological disorders. The device accounts for lack of head control, different styles of breathing and even how much the babies drool!
The SIPPC has three different modes. The mobility mode detects a motion in a direction and moves that way for several seconds. It will stop, encouraging the infant to want to move it again. The force mode measures shifts in weight, and moves in the wanted direction. The sensor mode detects arm and leg movements to determine the direction desired.
"When babies are first introduced to the SIPPC they don't do a whole lot—they can be surprised and even disturbed by the action," Dr. Pidcoe said. "They have to practice, but once they do that, their exploration areas get larger and larger over time and the amount of time they spend moving in any session also increases."
The SIPPC has already started to improve the quality of life for children with cerebral palsy in its research stages. With more funding and opportunities, the project is getting closer to completion.
"I think what is gratifying about the SIPPC is knowing that these babies were capable all along," Dr. Kolobe said.
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