Motivational System to Develop Posture Control for Children

Period of Performance: 04/18/2008 - 07/16/2009


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Southeast Techinventures, Inc.
PO Box 13714
Durham, NC 27709
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The objective of this Phase I SBIR project is to develop a system called Tummy-Time Motivator (TTM) that will be used to motivate children for postural control improvement. There is a clear relationship between the development of postural control and the amount of time that a child spends in the prone position. Children with poor posture control will typically work with a physical therapist, who will encourage the child to play in the prone position, and help the parents facilitate this activity at home. TTM is intended to be used primarily for children who are referred to physical therapists due to delays in developmental milestones as a result of premature birth, a disability such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or an unknown origin. The device will be used both in the clinic and at home, to complement the work of the physical therapist, and help provide a framework and motivation for the child to have fun in "tummy time" on a regular basis. It has significant advantages over the parent informant approach because it allows them to play independently, as it provides positive feedback, customized to the child, whenever they push up from prone. In addition, TTM will be useful as a developmental aid for all children, as it will encourage them through contingency learning to spend more time prone and develop postural control. The primary aim of this project is to build a compact prototype system that can accurately track the level of a prone-positioned child over a vertical height of up to 600 mm with a resolution of 10 mm. An associated aim of the project is to perform a pilot study with disabled, slow and normally developing children to test (a) The ability of the new sensor system to track the position of the child, (b) Measure the time they remain in prone without TTM and then with TTM, and (c) Determine if it helps them perform higher on a developmental screening test. The TTM system is composed of an electronic board, a mechanical frame and an infrared emitter/detector sensor array that automatically calibrates to the height of the child without manual adjustment. The sensor array will illuminate a region of interest with an eye-safe infrared light, and it will detect the light that is reflected off of the child. From processing this signal, it can accurately determine the position of the child. When the child pushes up to the calibrated threshold, the toys and/or music is activated to motivate the child. The motivation time can be changed by the therapist or parent. TTM product could result in a substantial business opportunity to help children who were born preterm, have plagiocephaly, or have a disability that impacts the development of posture control. There is ample opportunity to intervene in early childhood with technology-driven systems that provide rewards to children as they achieve developmental milestones. In physical therapy, occupational therapy and pre-school settings, the TTM product should prove to be a powerful aid in child development in the U.S. market, as well as in international markets, since the basic product concept may be expected to translate well across many languages and cultures. Project Narrative: Tummy-Time Motivator (TTM) will help children who were born preterm, have plagiocephaly, have a disability, to develop postural control. TTM will lead to a reduced need for clinical intervention that translates to health care service cost savings. As a developmental aid, the TTM may also be useful for any of the 3 million children who are born each year in the United States.