Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

M. Eng.



Degree Program

JB Speed School of Engineering

Committee Chair

Roussel, Thomas

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Behrman, Andrea

Committee Member

Behrman, Andrea

Committee Member

Angeli, Claudia

Author's Keywords

pediatric activity based therapy; task specific gait training; pediatric physical therapy; pediatric spinal cord rehabilitation equipment; pediatric treadmill training


The consequences of spinal cord injury (SCI) are devastating regardless of the age of a patient. When the injury occurs in children five years old or younger, however, the impact is magnified due to the inevitable development of scoliosis (96%) and hip dysplasia (57%) (Schottler et al., 2012). To reduce occurrence of these complications and improve the quality of life for these patients, specialized activity-based therapies such as locomotor training (LT) are being increasingly used to improve overall trunk control and muscle activity in the lower extremities (Harkema et al., 2012; Howland et al., 2014). The aim of this therapy is to activate the neuromuscular networks below and across the level of the lesion via intense practice and repetition of the task of walking and standing. To conduct LT, the re-training of the neuromuscular network occurs during training on a specialized treadmill with an integrated system for monitoring, controlling, and recording the patient’s body weight support (BWS) (via a patented force feedback system) and manual trainers that promote a task-specific, sensorimotor experience. While body weight support treadmills (BWST) exist for LT with adults, none have been developed specifically for children. Adult systems are neither suited to the needs of the pediatric population, nor to the needs of the physical therapist and trainers providing the therapy. This thesis reports on the development of a body weight support treadmill specifically designed to enable pediatric LT. Evaluation of this prototype will lead to further system development with the end goal to develop a marketable clinical ready body weight support treadmill for use with the pediatric population.