In previous studies we found that preadolescents with Down syndrome (DS) produce higher amounts of variability (Smith et al., 2007) and larger Lyapunov exponent (LyE) values (indicating more instability) during walking than their peers with typical development (TD) (Buzzi & Ulrich, 2004). Here we use nonlinear methods to examine the patterns that characterize gait variability as it emerges, in toddlers with TD and with DS, rather than after years of practice. We calculated Lyapunov exponent (LyE) values to assess stability of leg trajectories. We also tested the use of 3 algorithms for surrogation analysis to investigate mathematical periodicity of toddlers’ strides. Results show that toddlers’ LyE values were not different between groups or with practice and strides of both groups become more periodic with practice. The underlying control strategies are not different between groups at this point in developmental time, although control strategies do diverge between the groups by preadolescence.
Smith and Ulrich are with the Developmental Neuromotor Control Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Stergiou is with the Nebraska Core Biomechanics Facility, University of Nebraska at Omaha, NE, and the Dept. of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health Sciences, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE.