Objective: To evaluate effectiveness of motor learning coaching on retention and transfer of gross motor function in children with cerebral palsy.
Design: Block randomized trial, matched for age and gross motor function.
Setting: Coordinated, multinational study (Israel, Jordan and Palestinian Authority) in schools and rehabilitation centers.
Subjects: 78 children with spastic cerebral palsy, gross motor functional levels II and III, aged 66 to 146 months.
Interventions: 1 hr/day, 3 days/week for 3 months treatment with motor learning coaching or neurodevelopmental treatment: two groups.
Main measures: Gross motor function Measure (GMFM-66), stair-climbing mechanical efficiency (ME) and parent questionnaire rating their child's mobility. Immediate treatment effects were assessed after 3 months and retention determined from follow-up measurements 6 months after treatment.
Results: GMFM-66, ME and parent questionnaires were obtained from 65, 31 and 64 subjects, respectively. Although both groups increased GMFM-66 score over 3 months, measurements 6 months later indicated retention was significantly superior by 2.7 in the motor learning coaching children of level-II. Similar retention trend was evident for ME, increasing 6 months after motor learning coaching by 1.1% and declining 0.3% after neurodevelopmental treatment. Mobility performance in the outdoors and community environment increased 13% from 3 to 9 months after motor learning coaching and decreased 12% after neurodevelopmental treatment. Minor group differences occurred in children of level-III.
Conclusions: In higher functioning children with cerebral palsy, the motor learning coaching treatment resulted in significantly greater retention of gross motor function and transfer of mobility performance to unstructured environments than neurodevelopmental treatment.