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Center for Motor Behavior & Pediatric Disabilities

Infants with Down Syndrome Needed for the Following Study:

Longitudinal Study of Early Locomotor Training in Infants with Down Syndrome


       Over the past 10 years we have conducted a series of studies involving infants with Down syndrome (DS) to better understand the complexity of and consistent delays in onset of functional motor behaviors in this population.  In our early work we demonstrated that infants with DS can produce consistent alternating steps, when supported on a small motorized treadmill an average of one year before independent walking occurs. Based on our findings we were funded to determine whether the treadmill paradigm was capable of being used as an early intervention to hasten the onset of walking.  In  2000 we submitted our first manuscript to Pediatrics detailing the evidenced-based outcomes of the three-year randomized clinical trial involving parent-implemented treadmill practice (5 days/week, 8 minutes/day). The results indicate that infants trained on treadmills display earlier onset of functional locomotor behaviors including walking and walk with a better gait pattern suggesting better balance. The magnitude of the treatment effect was very large and statistically significant and parents were very pleased with our results.

      As a consequence of disseminating our results, we have received many calls and emails from parents and pediatric physical therapists inquiring about the treadmill intervention procedures. Important questions raised by parents and therapists concerns the long -term outcomes of the treadmill training, whether the treadmill procedures can be manipulated to have a more dramatic positive impact on infants with Down syndrome (DS), and whether the treadmill training has application to other populations experiencing delays in functional locomotor skill development. Specifically, we will evaluate the effects of increasing the intensity of the treadmill procedures on the onset of independent walking. We will also evaluate effects of the treadmill training on physical stamina as measured by level of physical activity, body composition, gross motor skill development, dynamic balance, speed of walking, walking quality, and the ability to adapt to small objects in the environment while walking. Given the consistent results in the literature suggesting the benefits of locomotion in further cognitive and social development, we will examine the relationship between locomotor, cognitive and social skills. These measures will be evaluated at onset of walking and after the child with DS has acquired one year of walking experience.

      If you are interested in volunteering for this study and live within 2.5 hours from Ann Arbor, Michigan, please contact us (734) 936-2607 or send Dale Ulrich an email at


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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