AZ Big Media Robot technology helps children with disabilities walk in Phoenix

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Central Arizona is investing nearly $300,000 in innovative technology that helps children with disabilities learn to walk. The ZeroG® Gait and Balance Training System, just installed at the UCP Laura Dozer Center in North Phoenix, is the only program of its kind for children in the Southwest. The system is designed to provide opportunities for the rehabilitation of disabled people, in particular children with cerebral palsy and other neuromotor disorders.

Cerebral palsy is the most common movement disorder in childhood; 1 in 345 children are born with the disorder each year. Studies show that 41% of children with cerebral palsy are limited in their ability to crawl, walk, run and play. In addition, more than 30% need to use special equipment, such as walkers or wheelchairs, for increased mobility.


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“ZeroG® technology can change the life of a child with cerebral palsy,” said Valerie Pieracchini, Director of Therapeutic Programs and Early Learning Center, Central Arizona UCP. “This equipment provides body weight support to allow a child with cerebral palsy to learn new motor skills such as crawling, walking, jumping and sitting by practicing the skills repeatedly.”

A recent study showed that children who received robotic gait training in conjunction with conventional physical therapy had a greater chance of gaining independent mobility than those who received only conventional therapy.

“To understand the importance of mobility in terms of community inclusion for a child with cerebral palsy, just visit a playground full of children and watch them climb, jump and chase each other. UCP of Central Arizona wants to ensure that all children – including those with cerebral palsy – have these opportunities,” added Pieracini.

How technology helps children with disabilities walk

ZeroG® uses a robotic body weight support system mounted in an overhead rail that allows users to participate in rehabilitation activities safely and independently. The ZeroG® Gait and Balance Training System protects patients from falls while providing dynamic body weight support as patients practice walking, balance tasks, sit-to-stand maneuvers and even stair climbing.

“This cutting-edge technology helps fulfill UCP’s mission to bring cutting-edge breakthroughs in therapy to the children we serve,” Pieracini said. “With the innovative crawling harness, children as young as 18 months can learn to crawl, taking advantage of the neuroplasticity window open to maximize the neurological changes that improve motor skill outcomes.”

Older children will benefit from larger harnesses to try out skills that weren’t possible before, giving them an opportunity for independence that they’ve never experienced.

“We want our children to live a life without limitations, and ZeroG® technology will help us make that possible,” said Pieracini. “Thanks to this investment, Arizona families no longer have to travel out of state to receive life-changing assistance. ZeroG® robot-assisted gait training opens the door to independent mobility opportunities for children who are otherwise limited in their activities of daily living.”

ZeroG® is designed to assist therapists in treating patients with a wide range of diagnoses, including cerebral palsy, genetic disorders, traumatic brain injury, orthopedic conditions and any pediatric conditions that adversely affect mobility and ultimately a child’s ability to play and explore the world.

This purchase was made possible by generous donations from the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, Arizona Board of Visitors and Thunderbird Charities.

As Phoenix’s oldest nonprofit health care organization, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona has served families with disabilities throughout the valley for 70 years. With the support of its Champion Partner, Circle K, UCP of Central Arizona provides comprehensive services to individuals with disabilities and their families, providing physical and developmental support and educational growth for infants, children and adults. For more information about UCP of Central Arizona, the clients it serves and the programs offered, visit https://ucpofcentralaz.org/

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