A new National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study aims to compare interventions for infants with or at high risk of developing cerebral palsy to determine the most effective therapy for children who have motor delays and cerebral palsy.

The study will be led by Stacey Dusing, associate professor and director of the Motor Development Lab, and Regina Harbourne, a physical therapist and researcher at Duquesne University. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the data management site. The University of Washington and the University of Nebraska Medical Center will also enroll children for the study.

Physical therapy for infants typically works in skills like rolling, crawling and walking, Dusing explains, in a media release from the University of Southern California. But that’s not the only issue.

“Kids don’t move just to move. They move to access the world, to pick up toys, to bang things together.”

A Different Focus

She and her research team had the idea to change the interventions to focus on thinking as the primary skill, to weave motor and cognitive learning together.

In the study, one group will receive a larger-than-usual dose of traditional physical therapy, which focuses on movement, while the other group receives the same amount of therapy that combines motor skills with cognitive skills, called Sitting Together and Reaching to Play, or START-Play.

The new study will take place over three sites across the United States, recruiting 150 infants between eight and 24 months old who have motor delays or early signs of cerebral palsy. The infants will be randomly placed in one of the two groups for 24 visits over a 3-month period, with follow-up assessments at 3, 6, and 12 months after enrollment.

Since both interventions focus on movement, Dusing shares in the release that she expects the infants’ motor skills will be similar at the end of the study—but she expects there will be more improvements in the cognitive skills of the group getting the START-Play therapy.

“We describe it as getting cognition for free in this therapy, since we get equal motor gains.”

The Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal, Dusing explains, is to understand better what type of physical therapy is the most effective for children who have motor delays and cerebral palsy.

“There are a lot of interventions for young kids that don’t have a lot of evidence behind them. We don’t know right now what is effective in these groups, and we want to provide that information to clinicians and parents.”

[Source(s): University of Southern California, MedicalXpress]

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