Robot helps Arizona kids with cerebral palsy practice motor skills

Aug 29, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 10:58 am

Aretech’s ZeroG system in action (credit Aretech LLC)...

Aretech’s ZeroG system in action (credit Aretech LLC)

(credit Aretech LLC)

PHOENIX — Cerebral palsy, a developmental disability that effects motor skills and is diagnosed in thousands of children in the U.S. each year, can be tough to treat.

However, a local organization has a new robotic tool at their disposal.

The AreTech ZeroG Gait and Balance System looks unassuming. It’s a U-shaped, ceiling-mounted track around 70 feet long.

Riding on that track is a small robotic box, which controls a hanging harness.

However, this small robot is a big deal, says Valerie Pieraccini with United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona.

“It’s a sophisticated body weight support system,” she explains. “It basically un-weights the children so they can practice all the developmental skills that may be lagging.”

The AreTech ZeroG Gait and Balance System provides dynamic weight support and fall protection, allowing patients to practice the motions of movement in safety.

For children learning to crawl, take their first steps or even just sharpen motor skills, that help can be essential.

“Adults don’t adapt or learn as easily, but little ones’ brains are actually developing,” Pieraccini said. “That process is very much shaped by their environment and their own activity.”

United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona is the first pediatric center in the West to have the device installed, and will allow them to provide treatment and rehabilitation for a variety of motor disorders.

“While there are services scattered across the state, our goal is to really be that place – and this is really a unique service that we’re able to provide for these children,” Pieraccini said.

The ZeroG system didn’t come cheap, and the program relied on funding from the Board of Visitors and Thunderbird Charities with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Pieraccini says the system’s unique benefit makes it all worth it.

“It is embedded in a bigger program, a motor disorder clinic for the kids,” she explains. “They can come for this, but we’ll probably be able to help them in other ways too. We’re excited to be that place.”

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Robot helps Arizona kids with cerebral palsy practice motor skills