Friday, April 25, 2008

"That's Amazable!" -Archer

Everyone knows that an infant's first 12 months are the most important period of development in their life. All you have to do is look at a newborn baby and a 12 month-old. The leaps they make in development is nothing short of amazing. A huge part of this progression is a child's interaction with the world around them. They bat at toys, bang objects together, and put everything in their mouths. Each new interaction creates new neuropathways in the brain and that is why it is imperative for infants to get a variety of experiences (being read to, played with, handling different kinds of toys, etc). In fact some of the most important neuropathways are formed during "tummy time." Research has shown that children who were born under the "back to bed" (sleeping infants on their backs) campaign and didn't get enough "tummy time" as infants have an elevated risk of learning disabilities. Infants create strong neuropathways that help the brain to "focus and attend." Maybe this has to do with the rising rates of ADD? Make sure your infants are getting enough tummy time, it is so important. To read more about the advantages of the prone position, here is an article.

Onto the real reason of my post. Children who have developmental disabilities (autism, Down Syndrome, etc) or physical disabilities (cerebral palsy, etc) don't get the interaction with their enviornments that other infants do. Mostly because of delays in crawling and walking. So three researchers at the University of Delaware got together and built a "robot" that babies can drive. Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering, James Galloway, associate professor of physical therapy, and Ji-Chul Ryu, a doctoral candidate in UD’s Department of Mechanical Engineering built the UD1 (pictured above). Infants as young as 7 months have learned to maneuver it!

From the article:

“If these infants were adults, therapists would have options of assistive technology such as power wheelchairs,” Galloway said. “Currently, children with significant mobility impairments are not offered power mobility until they are 5-6 years of age, or older. This delay in mobility is particularly disturbing when you consider the rapid brain development during infancy. Their actions, feelings and thinking all shape their own brain's development. Babies literally build their own brains through their exploration and learning in the complex world.”

When a baby starts crawling and walking, everything changes for everyone involved. “Now consider the negative impact of a half decade of immobility for an infant with already delayed development,” Galloway said. “When a baby doesn't crawl or walk, everything also changes. Immobility changes the infant, and the family. Given the need, you would think that the barriers to providing power mobility must be insurmountable. In fact, the primary barrier is safety.” Therapists and parents fear a young child in a power wheelchair might mistakenly go the wrong way, end up in a roadway and get hit by a car."

The model now in development will have a remote control for the parents to use to steer their child clear of any danger. If you want to read more about the UD1 here is the article. I find this all very fascinating but I studied child development and speech pathology so I am a little biased.

1 comment:

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I never understood before why tummy time was so important. Good to know for future reference.