Gait Initiation of New Walkers and the Adult’s Role in Regulating Directionality of the Child’s Body Motion

in Journal of Motor Learning and Development
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  • 1 Harvard University
  • 2 Boston Children’s Hospital
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This study examines how adults apply forces to regulate new walkers’ body sway directions while assisting them in standing and initiating their first steps. Eight healthy, typically developing young children who could stand independently and walk a few steps with an adult’s support participated in this study and were included for data analyses. Adults wore instrumented force gloves and placed their hands on their child’s hips to assist them in standing, then released glove contact with their child to allow their child to initiate walking. Using the glove force profiles, three phases (Stabilization, Relaxation, and Initiation) of adults’ support were determined. Results showed that adults gradually reduced their assistance in both the antero-posterior (AP) and mediolateral (ML) directions, before releasing their hands. They also influenced the directionality of their child’s center of mass (CoM) so that it was in the AP rather than ML direction. Furthermore, the behavior of the child’s CoM in the ML direction during the Initiation Phase was related to the latency with which the child initiated the first step. These findings support the view that adults play a role in modulating the directionality of the child’s body motion by transforming body sway into gait initiation.

Hsu, Park, Miranda, Sallum, Walsh, and Goldfield are with the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Boston, MA. Park and Walsh are with the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Goldfield is with Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA.

Hsu (wen-hao.hsu@wyss.harvard.edu) is corresponding author.
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