​More than anything else, parents of children with cerebral palsy (CP) want their child to be able to walk. Through home-based training on small, portable treadmills, Dr. Katrin Mattern-Baxter, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, seeks to accelerate the onset of walking while decreasing reliance on assistive mobility devices such as a walker.

Dr. Mattern-Baxter's work builds on an earlier study funded by the American Physical Therapy Association, in which she worked with two groups of pre-ambulatory children with CP. One group received once-a-week physical therapy, while the other group trained six days a week on the mini treadmills. On average, the treadmill-trained children were walking sooner and faster than their PT-only counterparts.

Dr. Mattern-Baxter incorporated her findings in STEPS (Supported Treadmill Exercise Program) at Sacramento State, funded by the Thrasher Research Fund and Easter Seals. Since 2013, STEPS has provided free treadmill training to 35 Sacramento-area kids with neuromotor impairment. Twice a week, children in the program learn to walk on miniature treadmills under the guidance of Dr. Mattern-Baxter and physical therapy students. The goal is that they will some day be able to walk on their own or with an assistive device.​

Dr. Mattern-Baxter's research comes at an opportune time. Limited funding means young children with CP receive physical therapy services just one to two times per week. STEPS allows children with CP to gain the greatest benefit from the time they do spend in therapy.