Hospital’s dance class for kids offers physical therapy and fun


Hospital’s dance class for kids offers physical therapy and fun

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Dance Unlimited allows children with a variety of diagnoses to attend physical therapy while enjoying a fun class with other students.
HUMANKIND

AKRON, OH — Walk into a Dance Unlimited class at Akron’s Children’s Hospital, and you’ll be sure to see smiling faces and excited students.

The program was created by former Cleveland Cavalier cheerleader and now physical therapist, Kellie Lightfoot. The class replaces typical physical therapy sessions for kids dealing with various diagnoses, including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism.

Initially just one class with 13 dancers, Lightfoot now teaches three classes with 60+ students.  The kids learn a variety of dance styles including ballet, contemporary, jazz and hip hop.

The end result? Confidence, happiness, and some pretty cool dance moves.

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Darwin Is A Mini Robot That Helps Kids With Cerebral Palsy Do Physical Therapy


Why it matters to you

Like any kid with homework, kids with cerebral palsy sometimes need encouragement to do their physical therapy. Robots like Darwin can help.

Could robots have a future helping kids with pathologies like cerebral palsy, a condition that often involves impaired muscle coordination and other disabilities? Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology think so.

They are investigating the use of pint-sized robots in pediatric therapy, specifically to encourage children to play an active role in physical therapy.

More: Friendly educational robot designed to help kids with autism

“We’re designing socially interactive robots that can engage children with disabilities in therapy activities, performed in the home environment,” professor Ayanna Howard, who leads the Darwin project, told Digital Trends. “Therapy is designed to help children in achieving their developmental milestones — whether a child with cerebral palsy, child with autism spectrum disorder, or a child recovering from a traumatic brain injury. Our robot is designed to function in the home, to supplement services provided by a human clinician, by engaging with them in therapy exercises just as a clinician does — interacting with them, monitoring their performance, and encouraging them with both motivational and corrective feedback.”

Ayanna Howard with her robot.

In experiments carried out by Howard and her colleagues, 3D-motion trackers monitored the subjects’ movements as Darwin offered encouragements while movements were performed — as well as demonstrating them when they were not performed correctly. With the exception of one isolated case, the robot had a significantly positive impact on kids’ physical activity.

“We are currently running a number of pilots using the technology in a few clinics and homes of children with cerebral palsy,” Howard continued. “Our current pilots show that children with CP are able to successfully follow the therapy protocols and guidance provided by their robot playmates.”

The next goal, she said, is to implement a long-term pilot program of two months to evaluate the robots’ full potential. Once the effectiveness of the bot-aided therapy is validated, the technology will then be ready for commercialization.

While it’s not being viewed as a replacement for human physical therapists, as it serving as an additional tool for practitioners could turn out to be beneficial. After all, what kid didn’t dream of having his or her own robot pal?



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A Robot Physical Therapist Helps Kids with Cerebral Palsy


Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology are using robots to help children and adults meet their physical therapy goals. And they’ve found that combining a simple game with words of encouragement and physical cues from the robots provides a noticeable boost to patients’ efforts, compared to asking them to go through the work on their own.

In the experiments, the researchers used a 3-D motion tracker to monitor a subject’s movements, with Darwin offering encouragement for the correct motions, or demonstrating if a person did them incorrectly. In all but one case, they found that using the robot helped increase physical activity significantly.

“One of the primary issues with therapy is that kids aren’t getting enough of it,” says Ayanna Howard, a professor at Georgia Tech who leads the project involving Darwin. “For it to be effective, you need to do it every day.”

As robotic hardware gets cheaper and easier to program, robots may start appearing in some surprising areas of everyday life. A robot might not replace a physical therapist, but it could help provide routine direction and encouragement that would normally be too expensive to offer to everyone. Indeed, a number of companies are now developing simple robotic assistants for the home (see “Meet Kuri, Another Friendly Robot for Your Home”).

Industrial robot arms could easily be combined with computer vision systems to provide simple home assistance. “If you look at some of the robot hardware that’s coming out, it can be repurposed; the power is in the algorithms,” Howard says.

Howard and her team are exploring ways that robots might help with routine child-care tasks. She suggests that robots could help in daycare settings, demonstrating simple tasks or perhaps even feeding or changing children. Howard argues that robotics need not lessen the human contact children get at daycare, since most of that comes through interacting with other children anyway.

Dan Schwartz, who directs a lab at Stanford dedicated to exploring ways of using technology in education, says the idea of using robots has potential, but says the hardware may not always be welcomed. “Children were often scared of the robot,” he says. “They were sort of alive but not alive. So all those issues with the ‘uncanny valley’ really show up with young kids.”

Howard says a robot such as Darwin could also work with elderly patients, reminding them to take their medication or to perform their daily exercises. In fact, a robotic seal called Paro, made in Japan, is already working in some nursing homes, where it helps reduce patients’ stress.

Maja Mataric, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies social robotics, says the big challenge is figuring out the dynamics of human-robot interaction. “We need to understand what users really need and what they want, which are not usually the same thing,” she says. “The challenges that stem from understanding people better, to create technologies that will stick, appear still to be some of the hardest.”  



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Special Needs Kids Receive Adaptive Tricycles Thanks to CSULB’s Physical Therapy Club


adaptivetrykes1

Photos courtesy of CSULB.

adaptivetrykescropOn Saturday, Cal State Long Beach’s Physical Therapy Student Club gave away adaptive tricycles to children with special needs, university officials announced.

The club hosted the Long Beach chapter of AmTryke, the SoCalTrykers. Thanks to a grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and the Trial Lawyers Association, 14 area children were given tricycles, according to the release.

“Our students have been invested in connecting with the community through service within their field of practice and have chosen to support SoCalTrykers,” said Physical Therapy lecturer and CSULB graduate Noel Marie Spina in a statement.

SoCalTrykers, founded four years ago, finds adaptive tricycles that will last as the recipient grows and develops. Their mission involves finding adaptable bike parts and frames that fit the user’s needs, while promoting independence and mobility, at a cost reduced by about 40 percent with the financial support of organizations such as the Trial Lawyers Association. For those who find it difficult to walk or stand, the bike can be adjusted to fit their needs.

“This bike is the equivalent of a reliable first car,” said Spina in a statement. “It is an affordable, entry-level adaptive tricycle that can fit anyone.”

The Physical Therapy club approached faculty two years ago, seeking a way for them to connect with the local community. Spina saw a way to link students, clinicians, families, children, donors and volunteers to create a larger community of support; students gain hands-on experience, while the feedback has been positive, according to the release.

adaptivetrykes4“[The students] have assisted with assembling adaptive tricycles, assessing adaptive mobility needs of children who are physically challenged and helping to get these bikes into the hands of children and families in our local community who could benefit from them and yet otherwise not afford them,” said Spina in a statement.

At three weeks, the oxygen was cut off to Cooper Newton’s brain, his mother told Spina. Through a combined effort, Cooper was given a bicycle, which he now rides with her on CSULB campus, Spina stated. By providing movement-focused experiences, the students are finding out just what the Physical Therapy club can do.

“For a child who wasn’t supposed to make it through the night, what Cooper is able to do with a wheelchair and a walker and a bike is sometimes just too much for us,” said Spina in a statement. “As long as we can keep challenging him with new things like his bike and teaching people about differences, Cooper will have a fabulous life. Sometimes you just have to have hope.”



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