"The journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step."
And now pediatric Down syndrome clients of UCP Central PA can embark on their life jaunt at a younger developmental age than in the past because of a physical therapy program known as pediatric treadmill training recently set in motion at the center.
"Infants with Down syndrome begin to walk, on average, about one year later than regular typically developing infants. Pediatric treadmill's stimulation results in babies who have experienced being able to walk as much as 101 days sooner than children with Down syndrome not participating in the training," said Diane Isham, staff physical therapist at UCP.
Launched this past summer at the agency's Camp Hill-based Capital Area Children's Center, the pediatric treadmill training program came to fruition by funding from the Central PA Down Syndrome Awareness Group in conjunction with an unsolicited donation made by retired state Rep. Jerry Nailor and family.
Mark Claypool and Melodie Corcoran are two of four members of the inaugural class of pediatric trekkers.
Both children aim to achieve the suggested training protocol of five eight-minute stepping sessions weekly. Their legs learn the walking motion by mimicking it on a specially sized treadmill that suspends the youngsters and allows for partial weight bearing.
They participate at the center, walking on its specially crafted therapeutic machine. The children receive assistance from a trained adult family member -- not the physical therapist -- during their sessions, allowing parents to take ownership of their child's therapies, Isham revealed.
Barry Claypool, Mark's father, also is the 18-year director of adult services at UCP. He said he has seen how parental involvement in early intervention therapies positively impacts children's growth and development and how it broadens their capabilities throughout their lives.
"Parents [of children with physical disabilities] are missing vital opportunities for their children if they don't get involved in the therapy process," he said.
Claypool said that throughout his tenure he has seen adult constituents unintentionally held back from greater community inclusion because they hadn't explored or known about therapies that could have enhanced their skills and developmental potential.
Isham and Claypool said they desire to lead more consumers to greater community inclusion.
They said they hope that programs like pediatric treadmill training can expand to serve clients with other physical disabilities and reach those in a broader geographic area. Claypool said he wishes to accentuate his advocacy of such programs through his roles as both a consumer and leader.
After only a few months of involvement in the program, Mark and Melodie are both inching closer toward the developmental milestone of independent walking. Their bodie are less fragile.
Melodie stands more, smiles more and is better able to play with children of her same chronological age. Mark attempts to take side steps around the couch and has begun to reveal his humorous side.
Participants end the training as soon as they are able to take two or three steps on their own.