the Feasibility of a robotic mobility option for infants with motor impairment

Carole W. Dennis1, Hélène M. Larin2, and Sharon Stansfield3

Departments of Occupational Therapy1, Physical Therapy2, and Computer Science3

 Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York


Clinicians and researchers advocate for providing powered mobility as early as is feasible for young children with motor impairment. Our previous research showed that typically developing infants as young as 5 months of age could learn to drive the WeeBot, a robotic mobility device with a novel control interface that responds to the child’s weight shift. This case study research reports the experience of two very young children (10 months and 22 months of age) with motor impairment, both of whom completed twelve 20-minute robotic mobility sessions.  The results of this study indicate the children quickly learned to drive the robot to objects and people of interest.  In addition, they demonstrated gains in developmental skills, and displayed increased goal-directed driving, environmental and object exploration, and increased social interaction during the mobility sessions. The results provide support for providing early mobility options with alternative control systems to young children with motor impairment.


      This work was supported by a grant from the New York Physical Therapy Association, through the Arthur J. Nelson Research Designated Fund., for which we are grateful.  We wish to thank the graduate students in occupational therapy at Ithaca College who helped carry out this case study research and analyzed data over two years.  Finally, we are indebted to children and their families who participated in this study.

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