US 3781931 A
Inflatable devices are adapted for use in therapeutic activity, and for physical exercise or amusement purposes comprising one layer of opaque, nonreflective material, and another layer of transparent, flexible material which preferably presents a non-slippery surface. The layers are sealed about their edges and the devices are inflated with a fluid in the form of a gas and/or a liquid to support a person in an elevated position, and/or to stabilize and aid in the balancing of the individual. The devices may embody a plurality of cells or compartments and means may be located adjacent the edge or on the surface of the device to be engaged by the person as an aid in positioning or repositioning himself on the yieldable surface of the device.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent [1 1 Knickerbocker Jan. 1, 1974 I INFLATABLE THERAPEUTIC DEVICE Barbara Knickerbocker, 240 Cold Soil Rd., Princeton, NJ. 08540  Filed: Feb. 17, 1972  Appl. N0.: 227,217
Primary ExaminerCasmir A. Nunberg Att0rneyAlbert Sperry et a1.
[5 7 ABSTRACT Inflatable devices are adapted for use in therapeutic activity, and for physical exercise or amusement purposes comprising one layer of opaque, nonreflective material, and another layer of transparent, flexible material which preferably presents a non-slippery surface. The layers are sealed about their edges and the devices are inflated with a fluid in the form of a gas and/or a liquid to support a person in an elevated position, and/or to stabilize and aid in the balancing of the individual. The devices may embody a plurality of cells or compartments and means may be located adjacent the edge or on the surface of the device to be engaged by the person as an aid in positioning or repositioning himself on the yieldable surface of the device.
8 Claims, 11 Drawing Figures PAIENTED SHEET 2 UP 3 INFLATABLE THERAPEUTIC DEVICE FIELD'OF INVENTION Children of normal intelligence, who are handicapped by learning disorders, such as perceptual-motor dysfunction, and/or the mentally retarded, as well as those afflicted by cerebral palsy or other neurological conditions frequently require therapeutic activity to enable them to develop the primitive righting reflexes and equilibrium responses to changing posture and position of the body. Bilateral movement or motor response is felt to be an important precursor to hand dominance, the lack. of which is the source of much confusion and disorganization in children who have perceptual-motor dysfunction.
It has been found heretofore that devices such as a large beachball and the trampoline can be helpful in creating and developing such responses. There are, however, numerous disadvantages in the use of such equipment since when using a beachball the child must be held in place to prevent falling or loss of balance, whereas a fall on a trempoline may cause the child to strike a metal frame or fall some distance to the-floor. Moreover, when looking downward from such an elevated position during manipulation or movement sometimes increases any fearrof loss of balance soa s to have an adverse effect. Furthermore, treatments are sometimes rather prolonged and it becomes very tiresome for the operator to properly support or to protect and control the movement of the patient.
In accordance with thepresent invention equipment is provided upon which a child'can be placed, and if necessary be lightly held, while being safely and comfortably supported in a manner to develop muscular activity and an appreciation of special relations. The equipment further is designed to create an active interest in children so as to promote the desire for the child to initiate his own movements on the equipment. At the same time the equipment requires a minimum of care and manipulation on the part of the operator to prevent slipping and falling or other movements which may be startling to a child or destroy confidence and enjoyment in the treatment being performed.
These results are effectively attained by providing inflatable equipment which presents a flexible upper surface which is preferably non-slippery so' that a child may be supported comfortably thereon with a minimum of danger of slidingabout or falling off the device. The upper surface is sealed about its edges to a lower member so that when the'device is inflated with a gas or liquid, the upper surface and the child supported thereon will be elevated while being yieldably and comfortably supported. Moreover, the upper surface may be formed of transparent material through which the child may look downward to the lower member of the device. The child thus may develop an'appreciation of a changing spatial orientationbetween himself and the floor as he learns to control his movement and that of the inflated device. The transparent surface likewise can provide the young child or the severely handicapped individual opportunity to develop trust and confidence in the absence of direct and visible support of body weight. At the same time the ease of movement ofthe body gives comfort and pleasure encouraging independent movement onthe part of the child relieving the operator of much-ofthe tiresomev and careful control heretofore required;
FIG. 1 is a perspective illustrating one form of device embodying the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a plan view showing an alternative form of equipment embodying the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a perspective showing the device of FIG. 2 in one arrangement of the elements thereof;
FIG. 4 is a view taken at right angles to that illustrated in FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is a vertical sectional view of the device as shown in FIG. 3;
FIG. 6 is a perspective of the device of FIG. 2 showing an alternative arrangement of the elements thereof;
FIG. 7 is a vertical sectional view of the device with the elements thereof arranged as shown in FIG. 6;
FIG. 8 is a perspective ofa further form of device embodying the present invention;
FIG. 9 shows an arrangement of the device illustrated in FIG. 8 which may be utilized for some purposes;
FIG. 10 is a perspective view of still another embodiment of the present invention; and
FIG. 11 illustrates one manner in which the device of FIG. 10 may be employed.
PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION In that form of the invention chosen for purposes of illustration in FIG. 1, the device is in the general shape ofa pillow or bolster, adapted to be inflated to support a child for treatment. The device embodies an upper layer of material 2 which is formed of flexible, transparent material such as a sheet of vinyl or other plastic composition. The material employed for this purpose preferably presents an upper surface which has a nonslippery, satin-like finish so that the patient will not slide about but will be yieldably and comfortably supported. The smooth satin finish has a tactile appeal which invites soft stroking movement of the hands and legs over the surface.
The sheet or layer 2 of material is sealed about its edges as for example by heat sealing, to a lower layer of material 4 which should be opaque and preferably also is formed of flexible plastic material. The device' may be of any suitable size and configuration but usually is of a generally rectangular shape. In some instances the device is about the size of a pillow upon which a child may sit while in other cases, the device may be sufficiently large to allow the child or other person to lie prone with his arms and legs outstretched.
It is possible to employ a lower layer of material which is relatively stiff so that it will rest flat on a floor, whereas the lower layer may, if desired, be sufficiently flexible to be distended upon inflation to present a lower rounded surface permitting the device to be rocked from side to side through a limited angle with the lateral edges ofthe device preventing it from tilting too far in any direction.
One layer of the material, such as the lower layer 4, is provided with a valved inlet 6 through which air, water or the like may be introduced to inflate the device sufficiently to support the patient in an elevated position above the lower layer of the device. The patient then will be yieldably and comfortably supported and may at the same time look downward through the transparent upper layer to afford an appreciation of depth and height so as to develop a sense of spacial relations. The opaque lower layer of material further serves to eliminate the optical distortions which might otherwise be presented by the rounded surfaces through which the floor or ground would be seen. This is of particular importance in the treatment of those patients afflicted with visual distortion or double vision who would find optical abnormalities particularly disturbing. On the other hand if the patient exhibits any fear or disturbance looking downward through the upper transparent layer of the cushion it may be turned over to present an opaque upper surface for supporting the patient. In any event the expanded upper and lower surfaces of the device are rounded or curved to facilitate rocking of the patient whereas the marginal edges of the inflated device present a tapered surface which limits tilting thereof to a safe and comfortable angle. Moreover if the inflated device is at least partially filled with water it will have increased stability.
In some devices, and especially those of larger size, or designed to by used by larger children, or adults, the device may be provided with gripping means such as the rope handles adjacent the edges of the device. A child may then sit or lie upon the yielding upper surface of the device and hold onto the handles 10 to balance or reposition himself while rocking back and forth or kicking their legs. Having more control over their movement and the movement of the inflated device the child is apt to be less fearful in using the device.
It is less frightening for the child if he can be rather near the floor level during at least the initial stages of treatment, as these devices permit in either a partially or fully inflated position. Thus he can establish a natural, spontaneous and independent motor response bilaterally enabling the operator to recognize the development of righting reflexes and equilibrium responses throughout the movement of the head, trunk and extremities. These movements are brought into play to the extent the child is able, and, on this equipment, can be utilized in the prone, supine, sitting, kneeling and even standing positions. Moreover, children who are 8 years old or older, and therefore too heavy for an adult to control in rapid movement patterns, may benefit from manipulative therapysince this equipment requires minimal if any outside control, relieving the operator of much tedious and tiring control and balancing of the patient. It is also found that the patient, being able to function independently on these devices, is selfmotivated to explore his skills and to continue for longer periods of activity because it can be fun and is not readily identified by children as being exercise or treatment.
Among the unique features of devices embodying the present invention, is the use of the transparent non-skid surface affording a fedling of security on the curved, inflated device. This is further enhanced by the appreciable concavity created under the childs knees or other weight supporting area of the body. The non-skid qualities of the vinyl surface provides the desirable degree of friction to the contacting skin surface affording. the perceptually handicapped child the necessary security to balance without slipping. In the case of the cerebral palsied child the use of the inflated devices may also be to give comfortable and adjustable degrees of support during the time the child is asked to slide his muscularly impaired limbs over the surface. In the face of excessive perspiration and/or drooling, the friction ofthe surface can be lessened sufficiently to enable him to do so by the addition of baby powder.
The thermal advantages in the use of a transparent, non-skid plastic surface is significant since the device then has the ability to absorb heat, quickly acquiring and maintaining room temperature or body warmth. In this way, it is possible to avoid a previously persistent problem of muscle groups tightening on contact with a cold surface in winter such as a beachball in winter. It is important for such discomfort to be avoided since children under treatment frequently are clad in minimal clothing. Conversely, in outdoor use, the transparent supporting surface and air chamber effectively prevent accumulation and retention of heat from the hot sun, whereby the surface will remain tolerably cool to the skin. This factor is especially relevant in treating cerebral palsied children who may be subject to epileptic seizures brought on by overheating.
The alternative form of the invention shown in FIGS. 2 to 7 of the drawings embodies a generally rectangular central portion 12 having elongated cells 14 extending along two opposite edges thereof and connected to the central portion by flexible seams 16. Two other and somewhat shorter cells 18 are connected to the other two edges of the central portion 12 by flexible seams 2 0 and are joined at their ends to the longer cells 14 by flexible connections 22.
The cells when inflated serve as stabilizers which limit th'e angle through which the device may be tilted and further serve as guards or holding means upon which the patient may brace his feet or knees or grasp with the hands to prevent slipping off the device as it is tilted or rocked back and forth by an operator. Moreover, the flexible connections between the cells and the central portion of the device permit the cells to be moved to alternative positions as shown in FIGS. 4 and 6. Thus, as shown in FIGS. 3, 4 and 5 the longer cells 14 may be turned upward and shorter cells 18 be turned downward about the edges of the central portion 12 to positions permitting relatively extended arcuate or tilting movement of the device. On the other hand, the longer cells can be turned downward and shorter cells 18 be turned upward whereby the permissible tilting movement of the device will be more limited, as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7.
The center portion of the device and the cells 14 and 18 may be individually inflated to the same or different pressures through suitably placed valves 24. Further, as shown the central portion 12 of the device may embody two or more separate chambers as indicated at 26 and 28 which are separated by an intermediate web 30 of flexible material. It is then possible to inflate the upper chamber 26 of the central portion sufficiently to afford a soft, cushioning and yieldable surface for contact with the patient while the lower cell 28 is inflated to a greater pressure to permit the desired tilting or rocking movement of the device and patient. Of course, if preferred, the pressure to which the various cells and chambers may be otherwise inflated for various purposes may vary, as desired.
The intermediate web of material 30 is preferably transparent, whereas the lower surface member 32 of the central portion 12 may be opaque. The area 34 between the intermediate web and the seams or connections 16 and 22 by which the cells 14 and 18 are connected to the central portion of the device is also transparent. In this way a patient resting upon the upper member 36 of the central portion may look downward through the upper member 36 and the transparent area 34 at the inner side of the cells 14 and 18 along the line 38 to see the floor or surface upon which the device is supported and gain a better spacial concept of his position as he is rocked or manipulated on the device. As a result the patient can be controlled with a minimum of effort and frequently may use the device by himself with complete safety.
The construction shown in FIG. 8 embodies a plurality of parallel cells or units 40 flexibly connected together at their longitudinal edges as indicated at 42. The cells may be individually inflated to the same or varying pressures but in some instances the cells may be provided with ports or passages 44 which provide communication between the cells whereby the weight of the child upon one cell will cause that cell to be depressed while the adjacent cells are further inflated. The child will then be supported in a depression while being protected at the opposite sides by the adjacent cells. With this construction manipulation of the child can be carried out with a minimum of effort and danger of falling off the device. At the same time the device provides for a safe falling experience within and on the device for the severely involved child, which has not been available heretofore.
The construction of FIG. 8 further may be provided with straps or webs 46 which extend from opposite sides of the longitudinal edges of the outer cells of the device. It is then possible to at least partially fold the device along the lines 42 and into a generally tubular form as shown in FIG. 9 by attaching the ends of the straps together. The device then assumes a tube-like form into which a child may crawl or be placed while being yieldably supported and protected on all sides. The broad touch-pressure of the folded surface enbompassing him can be a pleasurable means of enhancing the childs body image concept without chancing a claustrophobic reaction. The latter is avoided by virtue of not only the open ends, but whenever used for the above purpose, do so by placing the transparent surface adjacent to the child. In this way, not only are the open ends readily visible, but the interior of the enclosed area appears open, airy and light, through the transparent material.
When the straps 46 are connected together with a space between the opposite edges of the partially folded assembly the device assumes the form of a boat or canoe having cushioned protective sides within which the child may rock vigorously but safely while lying, sitting or kneeling within the device. Of course, the device of FIG. 8 can be inverted for use as an amusement device allowing some children to crawl through the tunnel. Others climb over the rounded top of the device or jump vigorously on hands and knees for therapeutic benefits.
In the construction shown in FIGS. and 11 the device embodies a plurality of cells 48 which are flexibly connected together along their longitudinal edges as indicated at 50 and have transversely extending inflatable cells 52 and 54 connected to the opposite ends of the assembly. The construction can be converted into a shape as shown in FIG. 11 so that it will represent a covered wagon, igloo, tunnel or house in which children may play or over which they may climb and jump from a standing posture as they become more adept and capable of handling themselves.
The various forms of the device shown are, of course, adapted for use in playgrounds and elsewhere for the amusement and exercise of children and others and are not limited in their application and use to occupational and physical therapy and rehabilitation. It will also be apparent that the particular embodiments of the invention shown and described are merely illustrative of the invention. In view thereof it should be understood that the invention is capable of many modifications and variations and is not limited to the forms and constructions illustrated and described above.
1. An inflatable device adapted for therapeutic, exercise and amusement purposes comprising a central portion embodying two layers of flexible material sealed together about the edges thereof, means for introducing a fluid into the space between said layers of material so as to inflate said device to a form in which it presents a convexly rounded upper surcace upon which a person may be yieldably supported and convexly rounded lower surface for tilting movement of said device upon a support, and a plurality of elongated tubular inflatable cells connected together at their ends and extending throughout the perimeter of said central portion, said cells being flexibly connected to said central portion and to each other and being selectively movable to alternative positions with respect to said central portion and with respect to each other to permit controlled tilting of said device through different predetermined angles with respect to a support upon which said device is located.
2. An inflatable device as defined in claim 1 wherein at least one of said layers of material is transparent.
3. An inflatable device as defined in claim 1 wherein said upper layer of material is transparent and said lower layer of material is opaque.
4. An inflatable device as defined in claim 1 having a central portion which is generally rectangular in shape and means are located adjacent all four sides thereof for limiting tilting movement of the device.
5. An inflatable device as defined in claim 1 wherein said central portion is generally rectangular in outline and said elongated cells are flexibly connected to all four edges of said central portion.
6. An inflatable device as defined in claim 5 wherein the elongated cells located adjacent two opposite edges of said central portion extend beyond the ends of the cells located adjacent the other two edges of said central portion and are flexibly connected thereto.
7. An inflatable device as defined in claim 3 wherein an intermediate web of flexible material extends across said space between said transparent and opaque layers of material.
8. An inflatable device as defined in claim 7 wherein there is an area of transparent material located between said opaque layer and the inner edges of said elongated cells.
UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE CERTIFICATE OF CORRECTION Patent No. q 78 QQ-I Dated January 1, 197
lnven fl Barbara Knickerbocker It is certified that error appears in the above-identified patent and that said Letters Patent are hereby corrected as shownbelow:
Column 1, line 22,"tr'empoline" should he +-t1 "ampoline-- Column 3, line 19, "by" should be -be- I Column 3, line 53,"fedling" should be reein Column 6, line 22, "surcace" should be --sur'f a ce Column 6, line 23 the letter a-- shouldbeinserted before the word convexly.
Signed and sealed this 20th day of August 197A.
McCOY M. GIBSON, JR. C MARSHALL DANN Attesting Officer Commissioner of Patents FORM PO-1050 (10-69) USCOMWDC wane t ,5. GOVERNMENT PIHNTING OFFICE: 199 0-35-331,