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

hetics are also practical. For example, the multicolor flecks on the polycarbonate tubing help hide scuff marks and food stains."

Placement is another departure from the norm. "Many prone standers provide too much support, and the child ends up being hung by his armpits," said Alan Harp, another CRT industrial designer who worked on the project. When this happens, weight is not really applied, and strapping can cause pressure sores. In contrast, The Buddy System uses wider straps and unique cushioning that supports the body, but still allows weight to be transferred. "It doesn't hold you as much as it aligns and positions you," Harp explained.

Instead of traditional foam padding, cushioning at the torso, knees and hips is comprised of an inch-thick gel. Covered with Darlexx (a soft, hypoallergenic fabric used for wheelchairs and wetsuits), the gel conforms better with a child's body and allows pressure to dissipate, preventing irritation.

Tierney began experimenting with prone standers as a senior thesis project in January 1997. "Besides gaining more experience with human factor design, I wanted to do something with social merit and recognized there was a need. Products for the disabled and elderly tend to be very utilitarian in design," said Tierney, now an industrial designer at Motorola in Plantation, Fla.

One of Tierney's biggest challenges was designing the system for a broad range of users. Generally, children with cerebral palsy have excessive muscle tone and require a prone stander that can withstand a lot of force. At the other end of the spectrum, children with Down's syndrome have little muscle tone and need a lot of support to remain upright.

Accommodating children from 25 to 40 inches tall, the system is easy for therapists to position children in place. Yet there are few removable parts, which is important in clinical settings where pieces can be easily lost.

The Buddy System also adapts easily to the home environment. Its easy to op

Contact: Jane M. Sanders
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News

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