How robotic devices can help kids with cerebral palsy

Recent breakthroughs in brain research have made it clear that repetitive practice can help the brain form new connections in order to compensate for an injury.  For children with cerebral palsy, this means that neurons (brain cells) next to damaged areas of the brain can reconnect pathways between other neurons, forming new circuits that can take over some of the lost brain function.  In other words, certain types of physical therapy can cause parts of the brain to become stronger, which may then lead to improvement of the child’s muscle function and motor skills.

Indeed, research over the last decade has shown that aggressive therapy can have exceptional results on a child’s motor function.  This type of aggressive therapy is based on the principle that in order to gain use of a limb that is impaired due to brain damage, the child must undergo focused practice with that limb.  This focused practice can be very labor intensive and costly due to the work the physical therapists must perform with the child.  To improve therapy and make it less costly and more accessible, scientists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (where many of our lawyers attended school) are creating and researching robotic devices that facilitate focused practice physical therapy.  The Ann Arbor U of M Rehabilitation Robotics Group has 11 faculty members from 5 different departments: mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, kinesiology, physical medicine and rehabilitation and psychology.  One of the functions of the Group is to bring together new healthcare and engineering expertise.


Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT)

Constraint induced movement therapy (CIMT) is a type of physical therapy whereby the unimpaired limb is restrained and the impaired limb is then “forced” into intensive use.  This is used for upper body limb therapy.  A child will typically wear a sling, splint or cast on the unaffected arm, which forces her to use the impaired arm and hand.  Research has shown that a repeated limb-use program can reduce impairment.  Research also shows that the duration of the therapy is not as important as doing the therapy while performing daily routine activities.  In addition, CIMT has been shown to increase a child’s self confidence and interaction with the environment, and improve sensory awareness of the impaired limb.

Body Weight Supported Treadmill Training (BWSTT)

Body weight supported treadmill training (BWSTT) is a type of therapy in which a child walks on a treadmill while having some or a lot of her body weight supported by a sling.  The theory behind this type of training is that spinal cord neurons have an ability for learning that is independent of the brain and can be used to help a child with a brain injury be able to walk.  Research also shows that prolonged moderate exercise can help create new neurons in a child’s brain, and it can increase brain volume.  Many children cannot obtain the most beneficial type of exercise without having their weight supported.  BWSTT can help a child with cerebral palsy perform exercise for a prolonged period of time and reap the benefits of this very important type of exercise.

Robotic devices and CIMT and BWSTT

Robotic devices can greatly help with CIMT and BWSTT.  The devices are able to deliver specific therapy to a child, and they can track the child’s progress.  Doctors are able to program the robotic devices to create movement in the child that targets specific parts of the brain.  Research has shown that therapy involving robotic devices reduces impairment and improves the smoothness and speed of children’s reaching motions.


The attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have been helping children with cerebral palsy for over two decades.  Jesse Reiter, the firm’s co-founder, has been focusing on birth injury cases his entire 25+ year career, and most of Jesse’s cases involve helping children who have cerebral palsy.  When he takes a case, he spends a lot of time getting to know the child and family he is helping so that he can fully understand the child’s needs.  Jesse has won many awards for his advocacy of children, and he is currently recognized as being one of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, as well as one of the 10 Best Attorneys in Michigan by Super Lawyers magazine. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is also recognized as being one of the best law firms in the country by U.S. News and World Report 2014.

Cerebral palsy is a difficult area of law to pursue due to the complex nature of the disorder and the medical records that support it. The nationally recognized attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have decades of experience with cerebral palsy cases. To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with an experienced attorney.  We handle cases in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation.  We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case.  Email or call us at 888-419-2229.

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