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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Robot assisted mobility for very young infants
by Lynch, Amy Katherine, Ph.D., University of Delaware, 2009, 155; 3360283
Abstract (Summary)

In typically developing infants, the emergence of independent locomotion is associated with advances in perception, cognition, motor, and social skills. In contrast, children with moderate to severe motor impairments often have delayed or absent locomotion. Such chronic immobility is thought to place them at risk for further impairments across developmental domains. Surprisingly, power assisted mobility, which would both provide locomotion and potentially advance development, is typically not available for children under 4 years to 6 years of age. The overall purpose of this project was to establish the training and technology for young infants’ to drive a power mobility device.

Aim 1 quantified the longitudinal effect of training on both driving performance, and general development in infants from 4 months to 12 months of age using our current mobile robot (termed ‘UD1’). Twenty-two infants, aged 4 months to 12 months, participated in this non-randomized group study. Infants participated in standardized driving and exploration training either 2 to 3x/week (‘training’ infants, n=10) or 1 time every 2 weeks (‘control’ infants, n=12). Using latent basis analysis, Aim 1 results indicated significant differences including training infants activated the joystick more frequently, traveled longer distances, and traveled more frequently to a goal destination. Additionally, in accordance with Mann Whitney analysis, training infants demonstrated a faster rate of development in motor, language, and cognitive domains.

UD1 is appropriate for research with very young infants. Its design, technology and cost, however, limit its immediate use outside of the laboratory such as for clinicians and families. Aim 2 resulted in a low-tech, joystick driven power mobility device that addressed these limitations, and is closer to production standards. Prototype designs were based on findings in Aim 1, resulting in a developmentally appropriate device. A Case Study presents results from testing of the Aim 2 device with an infant with mobility impairments.

Aim 1 established that children developing without motor impairments advance mobility skills with a robot assisted power device. The case study in Aim 2 suggests infants with mobility impairments can access and gain developmental benefit from training in early power mobility. As a result, we propose a clear route to advancing research in robot assisted power mobility for very young children with moderate to severe motor impairments. Furthermore, we propose that future research studies could be performed to assess the benefits of earlier access to active, robot assisted powered locomotion as a means to reduce later perceptual, cognitive, motor, and social deficits for children with motor impairments.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Galloway, James C.
Commitee: Agrawal, Sunil, Gamel-McCormick, Michael, Getchell, Nancy
School: University of Delaware
Department: Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences
School Location: United States -- Delaware
Source: DAI-B 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Physical therapy, Early childhood education
Keywords: Childhood disabilities, Infant driving, Motor impairments, Power mobility, Robot-assisted mobility
Publication Number: 3360283
ISBN: 978-1-109-24930-9
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