United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Central Arizona has invested nearly $300,000 in an 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 Southwestern United States. The system is designed to provide rehabilitation opportunities for people with disabilities, specifically children with cerebral palsy and other neuromotor disorders.

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disorder in childhood; 1 out of 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. Additionally, more than 30% need to use special equipment, such as walkers or wheelchairs, for increased mobility.

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“The ZeroG® technology can be life changing for a child with cerebral palsy,” said Valerie Pieraccini, Director of Therapy Programs and the Early Learning Center, UCP of Central Arizona“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 repetitively.”

A recent study shows children who received robotic gait training in unison with conventional physical therapy had a higher chance of gaining independent mobility than those who received only conventional therapy.

“To understand the importance of mobility in regard to 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 all children – including those with cerebral palsy – have these opportunities,” Pieraccini added.

How technology helps children with disabilities walk

ZeroG® uses a robotic body-weight support system mounted in an overhead track which allows users to engage in rehabilitative 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 walking.

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

Older children will benefit from larger harnesses to try skills that were not possible before, giving them an opportunity for independence never experienced.

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

ZeroG® was 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 condition that adversely affects mobility and ultimately a child’s ability to play and explore the world.

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

As the oldest healthcare-related nonprofit organization in Phoenix, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona has served families with disabilities across 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 by providing physical and developmental support as well as educational growth for infants, children and adults. For more information about UCP of Central Arizona, the clients it services and the programs offered, visit https://ucpofcentralaz.org/