Cerebral palsy (CP) covers a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. It’s the most diagnosed childhood motor disability in the United States and Canada. About 10,000 American babies are born annually with CP, while each year 1,200-1,500 school-aged children are diagnosed with the disorder.
The most common symptoms of those with CP include stiff muscles, weak muscles, muscle spasms, inconsistent muscle tone (some overly rigid from overuse, some too flabby from underuse), tremors or jerky involuntary movements, lack of balance and muscle coordination, and difficulty walking (most often due to crouch gait). There are sometimes other symptoms as well, but our focus at Bionic Power is on alleviating these issues. In particular, we’re trying to help children with CP stand taller and walk stronger.
Stand Tall and Walk Strong Today To Stand Tall and Walk Strong Tomorrow
What’s significant to our work is that more than 50 percent of all children and adolescents with cerebral palsy can walk independently. However, half of who can walk now will experience deterioration in the ability to walk in early or middle adulthood.
That’s a disheartening drop. And it occurs in large part because of the energy it takes children with CP to get up and move. They’re often dealing with challenges in motor control, posture, and balance, along with spasticity and deformity. This means that children with CP often expend an incredible amount of energy just to stand and walk (up to 3x the amount of energy of a child without CP!). It’s our goal to stop, or even reverse, this deterioration in mobility.
Mobility = Independence
As stated quite bluntly on Cerebral Palsy Guidance this past January, “the more limited a child is with walking and moving, the more dependent they are on others.” A lack of independence and mobility affects more than just a person’s ability to get around. It can also affect their outlook on life, leading to depression and/or lethargy.
It’s a difficult truth that, the less active a child Is, the more issues they will likely face in the future. And while CP itself is not the cause of many longer-term health issues, it’s the limitations that CP puts on a child’s mobility that, as listed by Cerebral Palsy Guidance, can lead to:
It’s this list of possibilities—and again, not even CP itself—that sometimes leads children and adults to a kind of unconscious inertia. “Cerebral palsy,” wrote Kylie Urban in the University of Michigan Health blog, “often leaves those affected in a state of inactivity.”
Correcting, if not preventing, some of these limitations by focusing on improving mobility is an important way to provide children with CP with as much independence as possible.
Treatments and Therapies—and the Agilik
Most types of long-term treatment for CP involve physical therapy, drugs, and sometimes surgery. What we’re most interested in at Bionic Power is the physical therapy component. Again, as stated on Cerebral Palsy Guidance: “If started early in a child’s life, many forms of therapy for cerebral palsy can reduce impairment and the risk of developing other conditions often associated with cerebral palsy.”
That’s why we built the Agilik, our smart orthotic. It’s designed to help children, especially children with CP (or spina bifida or other knee-extension disorders), stand taller and walk stronger. We want children with CP to be out in the world, doing as much as any of their peers.
From Each According to Her Abilities . . .
Obviously, whatever treatment or therapy you choose for your child depends on the severity of their CP. Just as important are the words of Mark Peterson, PhD., a University of Michigan assistant professor of physical medicine, who told Urban that, “It’s important to keep in mind that each person with cerebral palsy has a different ability level.”
Different abilities, different mindsets, different challenges. This is why it’s also key that parents understand CP and their child’s CP in particular, and then work with their child’s physicians when putting together a game plan on how to reach their child’s medical goals. A plan that’s individualized to their particular abilities and issues.
To Each According to Their Individual Needs
This, not coincidentally, is how we approached the creation of the Agilik. Each Agilik is specifically made for each individual child and their unique abilities and challenges. Each one is designed to each child’s specifications, but every device built with the same purpose: to improve the posture and mobility of a child dealing with cerebral palsy.
First tested out by the National Institutes of Health back in 2017, the Agilik has come far in the past five years. And it’s our goal that the Agilik will strengthen a child’s muscles and correct their gait to the point where they’ll be able to walk without any assistance at all. They’ll be able to stand tall and walk strong.
 Jahnsen R, Villien L, Egeland T, Stanghelle JK, Holm I. Locomotion skills in adults with cerebral palsy. Clin Rehabil. 2004 May;18(3):309-16. doi: 10.1191/0269215504cr735oa. PMID: 15137562.
 Steele KM, Shuman BR, Schwartz MH. Crouch severity is a poor predictor of elevated oxygen consumption in cerebral palsy. J Biomech. 2017;60:170-174. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2017.06.036