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New Rehabilitative Device Combines Form And Function For Children With Mobility Impairments

Taking a giant step forward for non-ambulatory children, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a rehabilitative device called a prone stander that takes the angst out of therapy.

Prone standers allow children with mobility impairments to stand upright. Proper weight-bearing on long bones helps prevent osteoporosis, while improving circulation, muscle tone and functioning of internal organs.

Although important tools, prone standers can be quite intimidating from a child's point of view: Most are cold and sterile-looking. To help children keep a positive attitude, Mary Lou Tierney, a master's graduate of Georgia Tech's industrial design program, has created a user-friendly prone stander.

Prone standers traditionally have been designed to work at the therapist's level — meaning that children are elevated to adult height. "It's easier for the therapist, but isolates the child," said Tierney, explaining that the height can be frightening to small children and prevents them from interacting with others. Many impaired children spend three or four hours a day in a prone stander, and that is a long time to be separated from playmates.

By positioning children just a few inches off the ground, Tierney's "peer-level" prone stander allows them to interact with peers, use a computer or work on a project on the removable plastic tray. Giving children more control lowers emotional barriers to therapy, said Tierney, who has named her device "The Buddy System" to reflect its user-friendly focus.

With its bright red pod and yellow confetti frame, The Buddy System "looks more like a whimsical space-age toy rather than some kind of institutional cage," said Julius T. Corkran, an industrial designer at Georgia Tech's Center for Rehabilitation Technology (CRT), a research center that deals with physical disabilities. Corkran, who helped Tierney with mechanical issues and construction of the prototype, added: "Although playful, aest
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Contact: Jane M. Sanders
jane.sanders@edi.gatech.edu
404-894-2214
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
3-Sep-1998


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