Occupational therapy for children with cerebral palsy: a systematic review

Clin Rehabil. 2004 Feb;18(1):1-14. doi: 10.1191/0269215504cr697oa.


Objective: Occupational therapy (OT) for cerebral palsy focuses on the development of skills necessary for the performance of activities of daily living. The aim of this systematic review was to determine whether OT interventions improve outcome for children with cerebral palsy (CP).

Methods: An extensive search in MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, AMED and SCISEARCH was performed. Studies with controlled and uncontrolled designs were included. Six intervention categories were distinguished and individually analysed using a best-evidence synthesis. This synthesis is based on the type of design, the methodological quality, the type of outcome measures and the statistical significance of the findings.

Results: Seventeen studies were included in this review, seven of which were randomized controlled trials (RCTs). One RCT had a high methodological quality. The analyses resulted in insufficient evidence of the efficacy of occupational therapy in all intervention categories, due to the low methodological quality of studies presenting statistically nonsignificant results.

Conclusion: Despite the reasonable number of studies identified, the inconclusive findings regarding the efficacy of occupational therapy for children with cerebral palsy may be a reflection of the difficulties in efficacy research in OT for children with CP. Future research should critically reflect on methodological issues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy / therapy*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Occupational Therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic