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Treadmill to help disabled children

An innovative new treadmill to help children with disabilities is in the running to scoop a top international design prize.

Designed by University of Limerick student Jonathan O`Toole, the Siul Skool device aims to reduce by up to five months the time it takes infants with Down syndrome and spina bifida to learn to walk.

Children are lowered on to the slow-running treadmill and held as a moving vertical screen with colourful footsteps in front of them encourages them to copy the moves.

The paediatric creation contains a speed controller, speed selector and brightness controller, with the rate set to the infant's ability.

Mr O'Toole, 22, who has just completed an industrial design degree, will now see his device compete against designs from 20 other countries to win a prestigious James Dyson Award.

The competition to celebrate the next generation of design engineers rewards both the winner and their educational institution with a 12,000 euro (£10,000) cash prize.

The recipient of the Best of Irish Award will also scoop the opportunity to visit the Dyson Research and Development Centre in Malmesbury, south-west England.

Mr O'Toole said parents of infants with disabilities could often feel helpless because of the lack of products designed to assist them.

"I found the bond between parent and child was imperative in making this product work so well," he added.

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