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Center for Motor Behavior & Pediatric Disabilities

Current Research

Gait adaptations of infants with Down syndrome post-treadmill training

Contact: Rosa Angulo Barroso (
Dale Ulrich (

The ability to negotiate an obstacle is critical for adaptive gait. Infants with Down syndrome (DS) usually show problems in adaptation to the environment in part because of their motor and perceptual limitations. This study investigated the impact of two different treadmill training protocols, generalized-low versus individualized-high, on both, the strategies adopted and gait patterns in negotiating an obstacle in toddlers with DS. Twelve infants with DS were randomly assigned to these two treadmill training groups. A small motorized treadmill was used to provide intervention in the home until the child walked 3 steps independently (the onset of walking). Gait data were then collected through a computerized GaitRite® mat in our lab four times (1, 4, 7 and 13 months after the onset of walking). The toddlers were encouraged to negotiate an obstacle the height of which was raised progressively from visit 1 to 4. The average onset of independent walking was 20.3 and 18.0 months for the low and high intensity groups, respectively, which was a significant group difference (p=0.015). Both groups primarily adopted the strategies of falling, crawling and stepping over the obstacle as opposed to stopping and changing direction. The high intensity group was able to adopt the strategy of stepping over the obstacle for 80% of the trials by visit 2, while the low intensity group achieved this goal by visit 4. Starting at visit 2, both the low and high intensity groups in general decreased step length and step speed while increased step width in sequence for the last three steps before negotiating the obstacle, and produced the highest step length while maintaining the low speed for the step crossing over the obstacle. Compared to the low intensity group, the high intensity group generated the higher step length and step speed for the first three visits, and yielded the lower step width for visit 2 and 3. It was concluded that both groups are able to appropriately negotiate an obstacle by adjusting gait patterns as early as 4 months of independent walking experience, and the high intensity protocol provides further improvements in both gait development and adaptation.

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Center for Motor Behavior & Pediatric Disabilities
401 Washtenaw Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2214
(734)936-2607, Fax (734)936-1925

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Created September 1, 1999