Patent application title: Pediatric Hand Therapy Device
Paul Forrest Harris, Jr. (Ladson, SC, US)
Amy Lynn Karpus (Ladson, SC, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63B2316FI
Class name: Exercise devices hand, wrist, or finger
Publication date: 2011-11-17
Patent application number: 20110281688
A pediatric hand therapy device, handwriting trainer, and fidget of a
stretchable, deformable, resilient material, in the shape of an animal,
character, or object having a plurality of ergonomically positioned
openings for the thumb and fingers such that device is capable of
providing resistance for all the motions of the wrist and hand, a means
of somatosensory input, and positioning for handwriting.
1. A pediatric hand therapy device, handwriting trainer, and fidget,
comprising: a body in the shape of an animal, character, or object having
a plurality of ergonomically positioned openings for the thumb and
fingers wherein said device is capable of providing resistance for finger
flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, grip, pinch, pronation,
supination, and a means of somatosensory input.
2. The device of claim 1 wherein the device is comprised of a thermoplastic elastomer having Shore 00 durometer between 6 and 30.
3. The device of claim 1 wherein said device has a range of elasticity of at least 8 times during extension while maintaining original shape at rest.
4. The device of claim 1 wherein said device contains embedded objects such as a noisemaker, light or hard objects to allow for additional therapeutic activities in manipulating the embedded objects.
5. The device of claim 1 further comprising an antimicrobial agent incorporated into elastomeric composition to prevent or minimize bacterial growth on or within said device.
6. The device of claim 1 wherein said openings are sized to remain on the thumb/fingers in the absence of the user's ability to grip the device.
7. The device of claim 1 wherein said device is comprised of a polymeric material of a gelatinous elastomeric composition comprising: a styrenic block copolymer, SEBS (styrene ethylene/butylene styrene), and a mineral oil; said oil being in excess, by weight, of said copolymer.
8. A handwriting positioning device comprising: a body having a plurality of ergonomically positioned openings for the thumb and fingers and a deformable body shaped to fit in the palm of the user so as to provide proper positioning and alignment for handwriting training.
9. The device of claim 8 wherein the body has an additional opening placed proximate to the thumb opening and the first finger opening to accommodate a writing utensil.
10. The device of claim 8 wherein the body has a groove proximate to the thumb and finger openings to accommodate a writing utensil.
11. The device of claim 8 wherein wherein the device is comprised of a thermoplastic elastomer having Shore 00 durometer between 6 and 30.
12. The device of claim 8 wherein said openings are sized to remain on the thumb/fingers in the absence of the user's ability to grip the device.
13. The device of claim 8 wherein said device is tear and/or break resistant.
14. A pediatric hand exerciser device, handwriting trainer, and fidget, comprising: a body in the shape of an animal, character, or object having a plurality of ergonomically positioned openings for the thumb and fingers, having a substantially convex side to ergonomically accommodate the palm of the user, and a substantially planar side to provide stability for the device to be used in weight bearing activities.
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/333,815 filed on May 12, 2010.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention is in the technical field of pediatric rehabilitation/therapy. The present invention relates to exercising the hands and fingers of children, and specifically to a deformable, stretchable and resilient hand exercise device.
 Motions of the hand and wrist that are often used in therapy, rehabilitation and fitness include finger flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, pinch, grasp and wrist flexion, extension, pronation, and supination. Although conventional devices exist for each of these functions, there are no commercially available devices that combine them all in a single device. Further, virtually none exist which are designed specifically for pediatric patients.
 A therapeutic exercise program is only effective if it is used by the patient. When the patient is a child, it becomes more difficult to achieve compliance unless the program appeals to the interests of a child and does not create discomfort. In other words, the program needs an element of fun for the patient while minimizing discomfort.
 There are many devices than can effectively work the muscles in the hand. However, separate exercisers using multiple devices may be necessary to satisfactorily develop complete hand functionality. Enabling a therapist, teacher, or caregiver to use a single device to work all the functions of a child's hand, provide positive sensory input, allow for proper positioning of the hand for handwriting, and make it entertaining and comfortable for the patient is very beneficial to both the patient and the therapist/parent/caregiver. Other devices do not have the elasticity, comfort, durability, and flexibility to allow such a comprehensive therapy.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, a hand exerciser device is provided that includes an elastomeric body with one opening for a thumb and four additional openings for the fingers. The outer edges of the device will stretch easily for extension, abduction, pronation and supination movements while the enlarged portion provides resistance for flexion of the fingers and grasp. The body of the device is designed in the shape of an animal, character, or object appealing to children such as a monkey, clown, or other object. When used, the unique shape allows the therapist to instruct patient to create various expressions such as surprised, happy or sad with the device, thereby performing the specific target muscle exercises. A child's imagination can be a powerful motivator for exercise. Additionally, the device is designed with elastic finger holes to allow the device to stay in place in the child's hand, preventing accidental dropping.
 The device is also useful for providing positive sensory feedback to children with disorders such as autism, ADHD, or sensory disorders. The material of which the device is composed provides positive tactile and sensory input, and may also provide a soothing/calming effect. The device may also be used to facilitate proper positioning of the hand for handwriting, wherein the user places the device on the hand in order to assist in proper placement of the fingers and writing utensil. In another embodiment, the device may have one or more grooves or holes proximal to the thumb and first finger openings to provide a means of properly positioning a writing utensil for handwriting training, or assisting users who are unable to position the writing utensil.
 The present invention may be used to provide strengthening and rehabilitation to the wrist and hand and may be provided in various sizes to fit children of various ages, as well as various levels of resistance to accommodate different needs and goals. Strengthening may be facilitated with flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, pronation, supination, pinch, and grip.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 For a more complete understanding of the present invention, reference is now made to the embodiments shown in the accompanying drawings and described below.
 FIG. 1 is a view of a hand exerciser according to the present invention
 FIG. 2 is a view of the hand exerciser in use in the extension mode
 FIG. 3 is a side view of the hand exerciser in use in neutral
 FIG. 4 is a view of a hand exerciser of a second embodiment
 FIG. 5 is a view of a hand exerciser of a third embodiment
 FIG. 6 is a view of a hand exerciser of a fourth embodiment
 FIG. 7 is a view of a hand exerciser of the fourth embodiment in use
 FIG. 8 is a side view of a hand exerciser of a fifth embodiment
 As shown in FIG. 1, one embodiment of a hand exerciser in accordance to the present invention has a three dimensional shape resembling a monkey head 6. The device may be thinner around the edges 7 to allow for full range of motion of the child's hand during extension and abduction exercises. The center portion of the device 8 is thicker to ergonomically conform to the palm of the hand and provide a full range of motion for flexion of the digits. There are a series of finger holes 10 placed at the perimeter to engage the fingers, and an opening for the thumb 9 on the opposite edge.
 FIG. 2 shows the exerciser of the present invention in use. Specifically, the hand and finger muscles are in extension 11, as it may be seen that the exerciser is stretched at the thumb 9 and finger openings 10.
 FIG. 3 shows the exerciser in the neutral position in the hand. The device is ergonomically shaped in order to optimize exercise benefits with a larger convex portion 14 on one side to engage the palm, and a less convex portion on the opposite face 15. The device may be used in either direction to facilitate other desired therapeutic outcomes.
 FIG. 4 depicts a second embodiment in which the device is shaped like a clown, with corresponding holes for thumb 9 and fingers 10, convex body 8 to conform to the palm, and thinner perimeter 7 to allow for full range of movement of the fingers. A manipulative 18, such as a noisemaker, light, or other object may be integrated into the body to provide auditory, visual, or tactile feedback.
 FIG. 5 depicts a third embodiment in which the device has the relative shape of a puppy head. This embodiment has the holes for fingers 10 and thumb 9 with enlarged convex center portion 8. This embodiment illustrates additional holes 12, 13 which allow for variation in position of the hand and available range of motion for exercise.
 FIG. 6 depicts a fourth embodiment in which the device has a groove or hole 15 proximal to the thumb 9 and first finger openings 10 surrounding the body 8 to provide a means of properly positioning a writing utensil for handwriting training, or assisting users who are unable to position the writing utensil. The groove 15 may also serve to provide optimal graded resistance in extension.
 FIG. 7 depicts the device of the fourth embodiment in which the device is being used for handwriting training with a writing device 16 in a groove or hole 15 proximal to the thumb 9 and first finger openings 10 to provide a means of properly positioning a writing utensil for handwriting training, or assisting users who are unable to position the writing utensil.
 FIG. 8 illustrates a side view of a fifth embodiment in which the back of the device is flat 17 to allow for more stability during weight bearing exercise, while the other side 8 is convex to fit into the palm.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 In one embodiment the material is made of a thermoplastic elastomer with a Shore 00 durometer ranging from 6 to 30, a stretchability of at least 8× during extension, maintaining the desired shape at rest, and further maintaining the proper degree of resistance even after extensive repeated use. This degree of elasticity and softness of the material are the key components that make the device functionally effective and unique from conventional products, by comfortably and consistently allowing progress through the full range of motion of every part of the hand.
 The polymeric material may make up a gelatinous elastomeric composition that is a mixture of a thermoplastic elastomer and an oil (or plasticizer). Further, the material will be non-toxic, hypoallergenic and latex-free. In one embodiment, the composition may be a mixture comprised of a styrenic block copolymer and an oil, where the oil is in excess, by weight, of the copolymer. These compositions are elastic, soft, and tear-resistant, even when damaged.
 The styrenic block copolymers, which are thermoplastic elastomers, have a structure normally consisting of a block of rigid styrene on each end with a rubbery phase in the center. Styrenic block copolymers include, but are not limited to, SBS (styrene butadiene styrene), SIS (styrene isoprene styrene), SEPS (styrene ethylene/propylene styrene), SEBS (styrene ethylene/butylene styrene), and SEEPS (styrene ethylene/ethylene propylene styrene). These materials are commercially available from, for example, Kraton Polymers (Houston, Tex.). Exemplary Kraton (US) products include KRATON 1651 (SEBS). It is possible to use just one of these polymers or a combination of these polymers.
 Oil or plasticizer generally refers to mineral oil or silicone (dimethyl silaxone) oil. The oil is mixed with the styrenic block copolymer. Exemplary oils include: BLANDOL white mineral oil, specific gravity @ 25° C./25° C. (ASTM D4052)-0.839/0.855; SEMTOL white mineral oil, specific gravity @ 25° C./25° C. (ASTM D4052)-0.804/0.827. Varying the amount of copolymer and oil can provide an end product having different durometer readings. In one specific embodiment, the thermoplastic elastomer may be white mineral oil-based, and may include 40 centistoke viscosity medical grade mineral oil, and Kraton 1651 thermoplastic rubber.
 Other additives may be added to the elastomeric material which include, but are not limited to, UV-stabilizer, heat-stabilizer, antimicrobial agents, antiviral agents, antifungus agents, antioxidants, pigments, glitters, dyes, or combinations thereof. Other additives may be included to enhance durability, flowability of the polymeric melt, and aesthetics of the end product, such as coloring, plasticizers, decorative agents, and the like. The device can be formed in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, ranging from transparent to opaque. Manipulatives 18 such as a noisemaker, light, counter, or small objects may be embedded in the device to provide additional therapeutic options for fine motor skills training. The user can be directed to squeeze or open the device in order to make a sound, illuminate a light, or move a manipulative. Children can easily be motivated by visual, tactile, and auditory feedback that can be provided by the added manipulatives. The openings for the fingers 10 and thumb 9 may vary in position, size, number, and shape to accommodate varying therapeutic applications. The finger openings 10 and thumb opening 9 shall be sized to fit around the fingers in such a way as to allow the device to remain on the hand in the absence of active grip
 Soft textures and deep pressure input have been demonstrated to have positive effects on patients suffering from sensory processing disorders. The device serves as a quiet, attachable fidget which promotes attention to task and relieves stress; many classrooms are using fidgets for these purposes, and there is a need for a quiet, attached, comfortable, washable device that also improves hand and finger function. The device may be heated or cooled to provide additional temperature feedback to increase sensory input. The exerciser may float for use with hydrotherapy exercises, and may be nontoxic, durable, washable, and kid-safe. Device can be used for facilitation of weight bearing during rehabilitation, to provide positive input on the palmar surface of the hand in order to promote proper positioning during upper extremity weight bearing activities.
 The device of the present invention can be made by many conventional molding processes, wherein the flexible elastomeric material may be diced and placed in or extruded into a mold under heat and pressure, then partially cured. The devices are then removed from the molds. They are subsequently cured to the desired durometer, for example, by cooling in a water bath for 10-15 minutes.
 In one embodiment, the exerciser may be injection molded at temperatures in excess of 300*F. in an aluminum mold which is temperature controlled.
 The exerciser of the present invention may isolate metacarpophalangeal (MCP), distal interphalangeal (DIP), and proximal interphalangeal (PIP) extension by using different placement of the device on the hand. Reverse motion may be used to isolate MCP flexion. Functioning of individual digits may be isolated. The finger openings 10 help patients maintain their grip on the device. The device can also be used for other upper or lower extremity exercise by pulling on or compressing the device.
 The present invention may be embodied in other forms without departing from the spirit and the essential attributes thereof, and, accordingly, reference should be made to the appended claims, rather than to the forgoing specification, as indicated in the scope of the invention.
Patent applications by Amy Lynn Karpus, Ladson, SC US
Patent applications by Paul Forrest Harris, Jr., Ladson, SC US
Patent applications in class HAND, WRIST, OR FINGER
Patent applications in all subclasses HAND, WRIST, OR FINGER