The Transitional Walker
The Transitional Walker
Designers: Juanita Titrud, Michael Putman, Laura Chamlee
Client Coordinator: Scott Sall, Children’s Hospital of Alabama
The Client Coordinator is a physical therapist who specializes in working on motor coordination and balance with children who have Cerebral Palsy. He has found in the past that many of the CP children with whom he works have an extremely difficult time improving their gait with a traditional walker and even more difficulty transitioning from a walker to hand canes. The aim of the present project was to develop a transitional walker that will allow arm movement (flexion and extension) as in contrary walking (where the arm that swings forward is on the opposite side of the foot moving back). This new walker will help children develop the upper body movement necessary to walk with a cane, while still providing the stability of a four-leg walker. The design was subject to the following constraints: Adjustable in height for children ranging from 14”-30”. Able to withstand a 70 lb. child (at maximum). Should provide for arm movement, in which the arms can move forward (extension) 5 inches and backward (flexion) 5 inches. Must be stable and easily maneuverable. Should appeal to children and be free of sharp edges or exposed bolts that might affect the child’s safety. A budget of $1500, and a timeframe of 16 weeks.
The design involved a modification to the Gator® brand walker. The Gator® was chosen based on its following characteristics: the two back wheels have small metal brakes on them that can be locked to prevent the walker from rolling backward with the child in it. The two front wheels have a pin lock that can lock them into place so that they only roll completely straight. The Gator® frame is stainless steel, painted with a colorful veneer, and weighs only 13.5 lbs. The walker has a weight capacity of 70 lbs. The Gator is 18 inches wide and can adjust to accommodate heights between 13.5 and 26 inches.
Plastic cording was looped through the back tube of the Gator walker and attached to the arm bars, which were made from pediatric hand canes. This way, when one arm is pulled forward, the other arm will be automatically pulled back. Rubber stoppers were attached at the end of the back arm bar and the rubber cord was fed through holes in the center of the stoppers. These stoppers cushion forceful arm movement and keep the child from overextending their arms. The arm handles were attached to the base of the walker with pin joints. Flanges were fabricated from A36 steel metal, wrapped around the frame and welded at the desired location. A steel cylinder with concave sides was machined and welded to the frame inside the two wings of the flanged steel. A 3/8th inch bronze bearing was fit inside and machine bolts (Grade A A307 steel) served as axles for the arm canes. The final design is illustrated in Figure 14. Total cost = $501.