Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC)

Making Innovation Central to Rhode Island's Future Gina M. Raimondo, Governor

High-Tech Toys Assist in the Rehabilitation of Children

Published on May 1, 2008

While there is no shortage of toys in the world, toys for kids with neurological disorders such as Cerebral Palsy that are easy to use and offer rehabilitation benefits are in short supply.

Now, with a grant from the Rhode Island Research Alliance, a collaborative group of researchers from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design are creating a line of toys designed specifically for children with movement disorders.

"The overall aim of this project is the development and evaluation of neurotherapeutic toys and related technologies," says Joseph "Trey" Crisco, Professor and Director of the Bioengineering Laboratory Department of Orthopedics at Brown Medical School/Rhode Island Hospital.

Crisco continues, "This initial clinical study under the direction of Dr. Karen Kerman, Director of Pediatric Neurorehabilitation at Hasbro Children's Hospital, is designed to evaluate the children's interaction with the toys, the technical capabilities of the toys and the toys' potential therapeutic benefit."

The toy line features three different prototypes that incorporate fun and rehabilitation of the affected muscles. The toys are also designed to record play activities to allow clinicians and therapists to track a patient's progress.

"We have focused on three toy designs," says Crisco. "A slot car track, a remote controlled car and computer switches."

The hand-driven slot car controller units and electronics target forearm supination/pronation in children with neurological disorders. The remote controlled car will actually be manned by a Power Glove, which makes it easier for children with these disorders to grasp and maneuver.

"The importance of this project is the development of revolutionary toys that enhance pediatric rehabilitation through play," Kerman says. Crisco further stated "These toys are completely novel in their approach to enhance neuromuscular therapy and if proven to be successful would have a profound effect on the lives of these children in Rhode Island and across the nation."

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