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First-year students in the Division of Physical Therapy gathered on Friday, February 9, 2017, to participate in a baby lab as part of a course in motor development and human movement across the lifespan. The experience is hosted by the program and community-based physical therapists.

Cora Poindexter, seven months old, plays during a baby lab designed for first-year students.
Cora Poindexter, seven months old, plays during a baby lab designed for first-year students.

As part of the baby lab, first-year physical therapy students worked in small groups with an infant, the infant’s parent, and a licensed physical therapist. Students used the Alberta Infant Motor Scale (AIMS) to interact with and assess each baby.

During the evaluation, students noted abilities of the infants, including their reflexes, core muscle control, and transitions, such as rolling and sitting.

Helen Buchanan, a first-year student, said the annual baby lab day is one of the first opportunities students have to work with kids and parents. “Having licensed therapists here today, and moms present, it was a really great experience to learn firsthand.”

Buchanan said the program works to bring in alumni and mentors who provide opportunities to learn.

“This is a great opportunity, graduating as generalists, to see what kind of patients we want to work with,” she said.

The division also hosts a child lab with a similar framework, including parent volunteers and licensed physical therapists as lab instructors. The child lab focuses on motor development for children ages two to five who are developing higher level motor skills like running, jumping, and climbing stairs.

Faculty member Dana McCarty, PT, DPT, facilitates the baby lab and said the small class sizes help create a lab experience with infants and children that provides students the benefit of hands-on practice. “This kind of environment helps solidify concepts of typical development and better prepares our students for their upcoming clinical experiences,” McCarty said.

The division is one of seven within the UNC School of Medicine Department of Allied Health Sciences.