Mobility plays important role in development for toddlers with disabilities

Typical toddlers simultaneously spend about three hours a day in physical activity, play and engagement with objects such as toys, while their peers with mobility disabilities are less likely to engage in all of those behaviors at the same time, new research from Oregon State University shows.

A child tries a car. Assistant Professor Sam Logan works with a child and his family as they try a modified toy car for the first time at Oregon State University. OSU is now a site for "Go Baby Go," a program that modifies toy cars for children with disabilities.

A child tries a car. Assistant Professor Sam Logan works with a child and his family as they try a modified toy car for the first time at Oregon State University. OSU is now a site for Go Baby Go, a program that modifies toy cars for children with disabilities.

Oregon State University, Corvallis, EurekAlert! AAOS April 12, 2016

The study shows the marked differences in play and activity among toddlers with and without disabilities. It also underscores the need for young children with disabilities to have opportunities to play and explore in the same manner as their peers, said the study’s lead author, Sam Logan.

The modified toy cars give children with mobility disabilities a chance to play and socialize with their peers more easily, said Sam Logan, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and leader of the Go Baby Go project at OSU.

“Whatever typically-developing kids do should be the gold standard for all children, including those with disabilities,” said Logan, an assistant professor of kinesiology in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “The ability to move independently is a mechanism for a host of developmental benefits for children.”

Physical activity has important physiological benefits for children, but it is also a vehicle through which children can engage with their peers and interact with their surroundings, Logan said. One way researchers are now encouraging children with mobility disabilities to move more is through the use of modified toy ride-on cars.

Past research has shown that independent mobility is linked to cognitive, social, motor, language and other developmental benefits in young children. Being pushed in a stroller or being carried from one place to another is fundamentally different from having active control over one’s own exploration, which is where the developmental gains are seen, he said.

The latest study, published recently in the journal Pediatric Physical Therapy, compared the activity of typically-developing toddlers to those with disabilities, with a particular focus on the co-occurrence of play, physical activity and engagement with objects such as toys.

The researchers found that typically-developing toddlers spent about an hour per day in direct play interactions with their peers, while toddlers with disabilities affecting mobility spent less than 20 minutes and as few as six minutes per day in similar interactions.

The toddlers with disabilities also had less variety in the types of physical activity they engaged in and were less likely to interact with objects such as toys, Logan said. One of the goals for physical therapists and other clinicians should be to encourage more simultaneous activity, he said.

“Moving is not the objective, but if you’re not able to move independently, then play with peers or interaction with toys is even more difficult,” Logan said. “So how can we help these kids move more for play?”

One challenge is the lack of commercially-available devices to help toddlers with mobility issues to get around on their own, Logan said. Power wheelchairs can be costly and typically aren’t available for children until they are older, and may not always be an option at all for children who are expected to eventually be able to walk.

Some low-cost interventions are emerging to help address this issue. Logan is a leader of the Go Baby Go program, which provides children with movement disabilities modified ride-on toy cars.

Figure 1. Child uses a modified ride-on car for self-directed mobility, exploration, and play. The car is activated by pressing the center activation switch.

The cars give children independence at a much younger age, allowing them the mobility needed to increase their interaction with peers and other objects, Logan said. The modified cars have proven effective even among children with complex medical issues, he said.

A case study on the cars’ use among children with complex medical issues, including use of tracheotomy tubes and ventilators for aid in breathing, was also published recently in the journal Pediatric Physical Therapy.

The three children featured in the study, ranging in age from 6 months to 5 years of age, learned to drive modified ride-on cars independently. The children used the cars to explore their environment and some of the children also participated in play-based activities using the cars.

Go Baby Go is a program with a hub at Oregon State that helps children with disabilities to play and engage in physical and social activities. Two new cars developed by students and researchers in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences help kids learn how to pull to a standing position, and also allows them to throw balls. In this way they’re able to develop as never before. Published on YouTube May 24, 2017

“The car becomes a tool,” Logan said. “It’s not just about getting from point A to point B. “It’s about how the child is using the car to play and interact with peers and objects.”

Together, the two studies provide further evidence of the benefits of mobility for children with disabilities and the effectiveness the modified cars in helping children gain that mobility, Logan said.

His latest research is focused on modified cars that require children to stand to operate them, which helps build muscle strength and prepare children for walking, and further reduces barriers for play and socialization with peers.

“The expectation should be that they have the same opportunities for mobility and play as any other kids,” Logan said. “Even the most complicated medical cases should not be barriers for play.”

Source Oregon State University, Corvallis
Via EurekAlert!

Modified Ride-on Car Use by Children With Complex Medical Needs, Dr. Hsiang-han Huang OT ScD and Dr. James C Galloway PT PhD. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2012 Summer; 24(2): 149–154. doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e31824d73f9

Toy-Based Technologies for Children with Disabilities Simultaneously Supporting Self-Directed Mobility, Participation, and Function: A Tech Report, Logan Samuel W., Feldner Heather Ann, Bogart Kathleen R., Goodwin Brianna, Ross Samantha M., Catena Michele Ann, Whitesell Austin A., Sefton Zachary J., Smart William D., Galloway James Cole. Front. Robot. AI, 02 March 2017 Vol 4 DOI: 10.3389/frobt.2017.00007

Modified Ride-on Car Use by Children With Complex Medical Needs, Logan SW, Feldner HA, Galloway JC, Huang HH. Pediatric Physical Therapy: Spring 2016 – Volume 28 – Issue 1 – p 100–107. doi: 10.1097/PEP.0000000000000210

Modified Ride-on Car for Mobility and Socialization: Single-Case Study of an Infant With Down Syndrome, Logan SW, Huang HH, Stahlin K, Galloway JC. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2014 Winter;26(4):418-26. doi: 10.1097/PEP.0000000000000070.

Modified toy cars for mobility and socialization: case report of a child with cerebral palsy, Huang HH, Ragonesi CB, Stoner T, Peffley T, Galloway JC. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2014 Spring;26(1):76-84. doi: 10.1097/PEP.0000000000000001.

Also see
New modified toy car designs offer children with disabilities more options in Oregon State University
GoBabyGo! Project at Wichita State University

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