Keystone Educational Collaborative uses state-of-the-art robotic device to teach students to walk – Leominster Champion

ByLance T. Lee

Nov 4, 2022

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FITCHBURG — The Keystone Educational Collaborative is pleased to announce that it recently obtained a Trexo Gait Trainer, a wearable robotic device designed to help students with disabilities learn to walk.

The collaboration began using the Trexo in June, with seven students participating in daily use of the Trexo at the Keystone facility in Fitchburg. Keystone’s Trexo is the second such device available for multi-student use in Massachusetts.

The Trexo adjusts to fit each child comfortably, allowing them to maintain a standing position. It guides the user through sequential steps while a physiotherapist monitors the student’s performance. Data is transferred from the Trexo to a tablet, which alerts the therapist when the child initiates independent movement instead of relying on the device.

Data received during sessions allows therapists to track student progress and make informed decisions regarding the student’s upcoming sessions, including adjustments to the user’s walking pattern, step speed, to the amount of weight supported and the level of support provided by the device.

Unlike standard gait trainers, which are not robotic, the Trexo gait trainer requires no manual manipulation by the therapist to replicate gait patterns. Instead, it allows for increased repetition, which is crucial especially for people with neurological conditions, as well as functional stretching and alignment correction needs.

“Standard gait training methods are very effective, but are very labor intensive for therapists,” said director of physical therapy Amanda Costella. “The Trexo Robotic Gait Trainer bridges this gap to allow for longer duration and high step repetition, which helps our students establish a strong framework for walking.”

The collaborative rents the Trexo for one year free of charge. The collaboration won the device through a Trexo contest. To win the giveaway, Keystone staff, member districts and families launched a grassroots campaign to encourage voting. Keystone was one of the top two voters.

“As a small program in central Massachusetts, winning was pretty wacky, but our team was extremely dedicated,” Costella said. “We made flyers, contacted our member districts and communities – everyone got involved. There was a huge energy around the competition and it really unified our community.

The typical cost for a Trexo Gait Trainer is $75,000. The device is not covered by insurance.

“At Keystone Educational Collaborative, mobility training and adaptive equipment support is a complex component of our students’ care plan. This device is so special and students will have access to it every day for a prescribed period of time,” said Chief Executive John Demanche. “We are confident that this cutting-edge resource will help drive quality results.”

“Achieving a device of this caliber is a reminder of Keystone staff’s unwavering defense of the best interests of their students,” said Joanne Haley Sullivan, executive director of the Massachusetts Organization of Educational Collaboratives.

The Shirley-based Keystone Educational Collaborative specializes in teaching children with a wide range of complex neurological, physical and educational needs in Middlesex and Worcester counties, including students who have difficulty walking and are in a wheelchair.

It offers intensive educational programs and services for students with disabilities; provides professional development for educators; provides related services to students with disabilities in member and non-member districts and provides other high-quality, cost-effective services to meet the changing needs of member districts.

Keystone serves school districts in the Nashoba Valley, Central Massachusetts, and North Central Massachusetts, including the districts of Ashburnham, Westminster, Ayer-Shirley, Clinton, Fitchburg, Gardner, Leominster, Lunenburg, Narragansett, North Middlesex, Quabbin, West Boylston and Winchendon.

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