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Center for Motor Behavior & Pediatric Disabilities

Research Review

Treadmill training facilitates the onset of walking in infants with Down syndrome

Ulrich, D.A, Ulrich B.D, Angulo-Kinzler, R & Yun, Joonkoo (March, 2001).
Treadmill Training of Infants with Down Syndrome: Evidence-Based Developmental Outcomes
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On average, infants with Down Syndrome learn to walk about 1 year later than nondisabled(ND) infants. The purpose of this study was to determine if practice steppiong on a motorized treadmill could help reduce the delay in walking onset normally experiences by these infants.

Thirty families of infants with DS were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group. All infants were karyotyped trisomy 21 and began participation in the study when they could sit alone for 30 seconds. Infants received physical therapy at least every other week. Parents were trained to support their infants on these specially engineered miniature treadmills. Every 2 weeks research staff tested overall infants motor progress by administering Bayleys Scales of Infant Development . The Primary measures of the interventions effectiveness were comparisons between the groups on the length of time elapsed between sitting for 30 seconds and 1)raising self to stand; 2)walking with help and 3)walking independently

The experimental group learned to walk with help and to walk independently significantly faster than the control group. The groups were not statistically different for rate of learning to raise self to stand but there was a moderate effect size statistic suggesting that the groups were meaningfully different in favor of the experimental group.

These results provide evidence that with training and support, parents can use these treadmills in their homes to help their infants with DS learn to walk earlier that they normally would. Current Research is aimed at
1)improving the protocol to maximize outcome;
2)determining the impact of treadmill practice on walking gait patterns;
3)testing the application to otehr populations with a history of delay in walking and
4) determining the long term benefits that may accrue from this form of activity.

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