The Development of a Head and Neck Support Device for Children with Cerebral Palsy

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Cooke, Hannah
Assistive Technology, Assistive devices, Cerebral Palsy, Co-design
Children with cerebral palsy, who are classified as levels four and five on the Gross Motor Function Classification System, struggle with posture and sitting upright. This inability to sit upright impacts many aspects of their life such as learning, eating, communicating, and breathing. If a person with cerebral palsy can keep their head upright, there are many benefits that include reduced muscle tone, better upper-extremity functioning, increased comfort, and improved functioning in society. The purpose of this research was to develop a head and neck support device for children with cerebral palsy. A user-centered design approach was taken focusing on a child in Kingston with cerebral palsy. While the device addresses the needs of the research participant, it is still generalizable to other children with cerebral palsy, who experience similar problems. A quality function deployment was performed, to identify the engineering specifications. To gain information about the child’s requirement for self-support, evaluation techniques included a measurement of the range of head motion during cervical flexion and quantification of the force exerted during these movements. A separate testing scenario was created to investigate mechanical fuse options. To design the device, an iterative trial and error process was undertaken. This process involved reflective assessment, which included evaluations using weighted design matrices with the client. The final design was divided into four components: the mounting system, the head support, the connection point, and the chin support. When people with cerebral palsy have better posture, they can make proper eye contact, feel more confident and better engage in conversation. This thesis provides an overview of the developmental process when integrating participatory action research in the creation of a head and neck support device for children with cerebral palsy.
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