Center on Physical Activity & Health in Pediatric Disabilities

“The Center on Physical Activity and Health in Pediatric Disabilities conducts research devoted to improving the overall health and functioning of infants and children diagnosed with Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorders. These individuals face severe developmental delays, so our work is focused on promoting motor behavior and physical activity at an early age. Parents and professionals in the field can then apply this research to their practices to not only enhance a child’s physical capabilities, but their cognitive and emotional development as well.”
— Dr. Dale Ulrich, Director and Professor of Movement Science

One of Dr. Ulrich's long-term projects is the Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD-3), now with the collaboration of Dr. Kip Webster.  Read more about the TGMD-3 (www.kines.umich.edu/tgmd3).

Center for Motor Behavior and Health in Pediatric Disabilities

Contact

Address: 
OBL 4118
1402 Washington Hts.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2013
(734) 936-2607
(734) 647-2808

Projects

Promoting Earlier Sitting, Crawling, & Walking in Infants with Down syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Once any infant learns to sit, crawl and walk, they begin to explore their environments which leads to thousands of new experiences needed to promote development in the cognitive, social, emotional, and communication domains. Infants with Down syndrome are significantly delayed in all of these areas and are also significantly delayed in learning to sit, crawl, and walk. Our view is that if we can get infants with Down syndrome to sit, crawl, and walk earlier, we will also see gains in cognitive, social, emotional, and communication development.

This study involves a series of very early physical activities implemented by parents in their homes to help promote health, leg strength & postural control which are needed for infant sitting, crawling, and walking. These activities will supplement the infant’s regular pediatric physical therapy. Researchers will train parents on how to implement the activities and will monitor the infant’s progress. Infants with Down syndrome will enter this study when they are at least 2 months of age and continue the intervention until they can walk independently.

Physical activity and its relationship to changes in weight, subcutaneous fat and health in very young infants with Down syndrome (from 1-6 months of age)

Children with Down syndrome are at high risk of being overweight or obese by age 3. The risk level increases with age. It is our view based on current medical, nutritional, and exercise science that we do not know when this risk begins but that it begins very early in life. This study will assist us in filling in the gaps of knowledge related to Down syndrome and rapid weight gain seen in this population. No one is studying how physical activity influences this condition. Quoting Aristotle, “He who sees things from their beginning will have the finest view of them”. It is critical that we view physical activity, weight gain and body fat starting the first month of life in an effort to develop the scientific knowledge needed to help reduce the significant risk through the design of innovative interventions. The first step in this scientific journey is to determine whether physical activity during the first 6 months of life is related to weight and fat gains seen in all babies.

We would travel to your home to conduct a 20 minute data collection once each month starting the first month of your infant’s life and ending when your infant is 6 months of age. We will assess your infant’s level of physical activity, their body length, their body weight, and your infant’s motor skill development. We will ask parents to keep a log of the frequency of illnesses the infant experiences each month requiring a visit to their doctor. Parents will be paid for their monthly participation.

Contact: for more information or to volunteer for this project, please email Dale Ulrich at ulrichd@umich.edu or call him at 734-615-1904.

The impact of an early and intense prone positioning program (TUMMY TIME) on infants with Down syndrome and on typically developing infants

Because minimal work has been done on appropriate dosage of Tummy Time (prone positioning) in infants in general, this study will compare the impact of a daily, supervised 90 minute prone positioning program in infants with Down syndrome to the impact of the same program in typically developing infants. We will examine the impact of a daily, supervised 90 minute prone positioning program on physical activity level, motor skill development, and onset of motor milestones in infants with Down syndrome and in a group of typically developing infants, aged 1 to 12 months, as compared to a matched group with Down syndrome and a group of typically developing infants not receiving the intervention (previously studied at the University of Michigan). The significance of the study is to determine if an adequately dosed, structured and early implemented prone positioning program can attenuate the gross motor delays experienced by infants with Down syndrome and by typically developing infants; and, if this same program can positively impact their level of physical activity early in life to prevent unhealthy weight gain during this period.

We would travel to your home to conduct a 45 minute data collection once each month starting when your infants is 4 to 20 weeks of age and ending 12 months later. The tummy time intervention will end when your infant can independently transition in and out of the sitting position. At each monthly visit, we will assess your infant’s level of physical activity, height, weight, and motor skill development. We will ask parents to keep a log of the number of minutes of tummy time their infant experiences each day.

Contact: for more information or to volunteer for this project, please contact:
Erin Wentz, erinengw@umich.edu, 734.936.2607
OR
Dr. Dale Ulrich, ulrichd@umich.edu, 734.615.1904
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Physical activity, diet and hormone profiles of adolescents with and without Down syndrome

The Center for Physical Activity and Health in Pediatric Disabilities directed by Dr. Dale Ulrich, in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan is looking for children with and without Down syndrome between the ages of 12-18 years to participate in a physical activity study. We are attempting to understand the unique hormone profiles of adolescents with Down syndrome and how these hormones are related to physical activity, diet and growth. In this study, participants will come to the University of Michigan for a 1 hour clinic visit and perform additional measurements at home over the following week. We will collect saliva samples to study hormones, measure how much the participant is moving and what they eat, and perform a body scan. Children should generally enjoy the activities.

Your child may participate if they:
• are between the ages of 9-17
• have a Down syndrome diagnosis OR have typical development without Down syndrome

Participants and families will receive up to $40 to defray travel costs and for completing all measurements.

We hope this study will help us better understand some of the underlying factors that influence health in this population and will enable us to better create interventions to improve the health and growth of individuals with Down syndrome.

If your child is interested in volunteering for this study, or you would like more information please contact:

Andy Pitchford, apitch@umich.edu, 734.936.2607
OR
Dr. Dale Ulrich, ulrichd@umich.edu, 734.615.1904

Normative evaluation of the Test of Gross Motor Development 3rd edition in a national cohort

This research study aims to evaluate the newest version of the Test of Gross Motor Development – 3rd edition (TGMD-3) set to be released in 2015. The previous version of this test, the TGMD-2, is the most popular motor assessment in elementary physical education in the United States for ages 3-10, over 7,000 schools in the US use this test along with a large contingent of international researchers. This assessment measures gross motor skill development with 13 items classified as either locomotor or ball skills (i.e. object control). Fundamental motor skills (i.e. gross motor skills) require the activation of large muscle groups and are a necessary base for future use in sport-specific skills. Examples of these skills include running, jumping, kicking, and throwing.

This study will provide baseline data for the TGMD-3 for future evaluation and interpretation for children of the same age and gender across the country. Our current efforts involve school children from Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana from our lab; more cohorts are being collected across the United States and the globe. The current evaluation will examine psychometric properties to establish validity and reliability, along with updating the normative information for each skill. This study is being conducted by Drs. Dale A. Ulrich and Kip Webster.