She discussed her vision with her colleague, Joseph J. Crisco, PhD, director of the bioengineering lab in the department of orthopedics at Rhode Island Hospital and a professor of orthopedics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. At the time, Crisco was teaching a course for Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Brown University students, and Kerman and he believed this was a perfect forum to bring creative minds together to design prototypes of new therapeutic toys. The CVS Caremark Charitable Trust generously agreed to provide funding for the project.
With the help of Khipra Nichols, BID, professor of industrial design at RISD, Crisco's students developed more than a dozen prototypes. The project team developed game controllers that would be strapped to a child's wrist or forearm to compensate specifically for the lack of fine motor skills in children with cerebral palsy. The toys developed included a radio-controlled car, a tabletop racetrack, and moving stuffed animals, all manipulated by the new rehabilitation controllers.
The toys also have sensors that can record how much the toys are used, information that provides a better understanding of the toy's potential as a rehabilitation tool. The project is now in a study phase, during which 20 children with cerebral palsy between the ages of 5 and 12 are given a toy to use at home as part of their normal play. Once a month, they are evaluated to see if they have gained function.
Kerman and Crisco believe this is a big step in physical therapy for cerebral palsy patients, and they expect that the information obtained from this study will have future implications for other patients, including those who have suffered a stroke.