New ways to support children with Cerebral Palsy

Small child making a heart sign

Academics at Christ Church are key partners in a major, cross-European project, to design and test innovative, wearable Robotic Assistive Technologies that will help children with Cerebral Palsy to stand and walk for longer.

MOTION (Mechanised Orthosis for Children with Neurological Disorders), is a three year, €7.7 million research project, funded by the EU Interreg 2 Seas (European Regional Development Fund) programme.

Partners on the MOTION project include Higher Education institutions, health services (including the NHS) and commercial and public sector organisations from four European countries; UK, France, Netherlands and Belgium. The team brings together a wide range of professionals including electromechanical, biomedical and computer science engineers, biomechanics and movement scientists, physiotherapists, clinical and child health psychologists and health system experts.

A multidisciplinary research team of academics from the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Social Care and Sports Science at the University is one of the 14-partner project consortium. The Christ Church team, led by Professor Eleni Hatzidimitriadou, are focused on the project’s work strand which will test a wearable, lower limb exoskeleton and other robotic devices with children aged 8 to 12, and develop training and information for health care professionals, children and families, across the four European countries.

The project will provide unique cross-national data on lower limb exoskeleton use with children with Cerebral Palsy. It will collect normative data on children’s gait and record their responses to the prototype devices developed, along with an assessment of the impacts it could have on their social and psychological wellbeing.

Cerebral Palsy refers to a group of neurological disorders that permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination and which disrupt the brain’s ability to control and maintain posture and balance.  According to European data collected from 14 specialist centres, 30% of children with Cerebral Palsy are not able to walk at the age of five and 16% of children with the condition need assistive devices to walk, while 54% can walk without aid.

Professor Eleni Hatzidimitriadou and Dr Damian Coleman, said: “This is a really exciting and important project for Christ Church academics to be working on. It has a strong interdisciplinary approach, with collaboration between biomechanics and health care experts, which will contribute unique research evidence on the use of Lower Limb Exoskeleton technology for children with Cerebral Palsy.

“We will be able to understand much more about the impact of this Robotic Assistive Technology on the children’s physical, social and psychological wellbeing, and promote such innovative digital health solutions to the healthcare workforce and wider community.”

Major outcomes of the MOTION project will be:

  • Development and validation of an autonomous lower limb exoskeleton and a powered ankle foot orthosis for children
  • Development and validation of a functional, comfortable smart garment that integrates sensing technology to monitor children while wearing the exoskeleton
  • Collation of physiological and biomechanical measurement data for use by practitioners and the scientific community
  • Design of web-based and face-to-face training packages for healthcare professionals, children and families
  • Development of a transregional network to transfer the technology developed and related knowledge by linking research with industry, healthcare professionals, end users and policy makers

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