Mechanical Design of a New Device to Assist Eating for People with Movement Disorders

Université Laval, MSc in Mechanical Engineering

Philippe Turgeon, Michael Dubé, Audrey Lebrasseur, Thierry Laliberté, François Routhier, Véronique Flamand, Alexandre Campeau-Lecours

Many people living with conditions such as cerebral palsy, stroke, muscular dystrophy or dystonia, experience upper limbs impairments (muscle spasticity, unselective motor control, muscle weakness or tremors) and are unable to eat independently. This paper presents the development of a new device to assist eating aimed at stabilizing the movements of people who have movement disorders. The design was guided by insights gathered through focus groups, with occupational therapists and engineers, about the challenges faced by individuals living with movement disorders related to eating autonomously. The proposed device is designed to be fixed on a table and supports a spoon; the mechanism is designed so that the spoon maintains a position parallel to the ground for the user. Dampers and inertia allow stabilizing the user’s motion. A preliminary evaluation with five people living with cerebral palsy was finally performed to assess the prototype performance and to guide future iterations of the prototype. The prototype showed good potential to stabilize the utensil for the user and improve movement fluidity. The project significance is to help people living with movement disorders to eat by themselves in order to improve autonomy well-being, self-esteem, human assistance reduction and quality of life in general.

RESNA Design Brief

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