Walking Strategies and Variability in New Walkers with and Without Down Syndrome

Investigators: Beth A. Smith, Genna Mulvey, Beverly Ulrich, Nick Stergiou, Masayoshi Kubo, Chia-Lin Chang.

At the onset of walking, toddlers produce a wide variety of step lengths and widths. Patterns within this variability, as well as how they adjust their walking patterns to external constraints such as obstacles, can tell us about the function this variability serves as they explore their newfound skills. Toddlers with typical development and toddlers with Down syndrome walked on an instrumented gait mat and on a treadmill across months of walking experience. We analyzed the nonlinear patterns of variability in their knee position across consecutive strides using the Lyapunov Exponent values and surrogation analysis. In addition, we placed an obstacle across their walking path and observed the strategies they used to cross the obstacle, along with their gait characteristics as they approached the obstacle. Through this study, we gain a greater understanding of the development of stable walking patterns as well as strategies used to cope with challenges to walking stability.

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