United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Central Arizona has invested nearly $300,000 in innovative technologies that help children with disabilities learn to walk. The ZeroG® Gait and Balance Training System, just installed at UCP’s Laura Dozer Center in North Phoenix, is the only children’s program of its kind in the American Southwest. The system is designed to provide rehabilitation opportunities for people with disabilities, especially children with cerebral palsy and other neuromotor disorders.
Cerebral palsy is the most common movement disorder in childhood; 1 in 345 children is born with the disorder each year. Research shows that 41% of children with cerebral palsy have limited ability to crawl, walk, run and play. Additionally, more than 30% require the use of special equipment, such as a walker or wheelchair, to improve mobility.
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“ZeroG® technology can transform the lives of children with cerebral palsy,” said Valerie Pieraccini, director of the UCP Treatment Program and Early Learning Center in Central Arizona. “The device provides weight support and allows children with cerebral palsy to learn new motor skills, such as crawling, walking, jumping and sitting, through repetitive practice of these skills.”
A recent study showed that children who received both robotic gait training and conventional physical therapy had a higher chance of gaining independent mobility than children who received conventional physical therapy alone.
“To understand the importance of mobility for community inclusion of children with cerebral palsy, simply visit a playground full of children and watch them climb, jump and chase each other. UCP in Central Arizona wants to ensure that all children — including children with cerebral palsy — — have these opportunities,” Pierracini added.
How Technology Helps Disabled Children Walk
ZeroG® uses a robotic body weight support system mounted on an overhead track, allowing users to perform rehabilitation activities safely and independently. The ZeroG® Gait and Balance Training System protects patients from falls while providing dynamic body weight support as patients practice walking, balance tasks, sit-stand maneuvers and even stair walking.
“This cutting-edge technology contributes to UCP’s mission to bring cutting-edge breakthroughs in therapy to the children we serve,” Pieraccini said. “With the innovative crawling harness, children as young as 18 months can learn to crawl, exploiting an open window of neuroplasticity to maximize neurological changes that improve motor skill outcomes.”
Older children will benefit from greater safety by trying skills that were not possible before, giving them a chance to be independent like never before.
“We want our children to live a life without limits, and ZeroG® technology will help make that happen,” Pieraccini said. “Thanks to this investment, Arizona families no longer need to travel abroad for life-changing help. ZeroG® robotic-assisted gait training opens the door to the possibility of independent mobility for children with limited activities of daily living.”
ZeroG® is designed to help therapists treat patients with a wide range of diagnoses, including Cerebral palsy, genetic disorders, traumatic brain injury, orthopedic disorders and any paediatric condition that adversely affects mobility and ultimately a child’s ability to play and explore the world.
The purchase was made possible thanks to generous donations from the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, the Arizona Visitors Commission and Thunderbird Charities.
As Phoenix’s oldest health care-related nonprofit, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona has served disabled families throughout the Valley for 70 years. With the support of its champion partner Circle K, UCP in Central Arizona provides comprehensive services to individuals with disabilities and their families by providing physical and developmental support and educational growth for infants, children and adults. For more information about UCP Central Arizona, the clients it serves, and the programs it offers, please visit https://ucpofcentralaz.org/