Background: The average age for the diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP) is 19 months. Recent neuroplasticity literature suggests that intensive, task-specific intervention ought to commence as early as possible and in an enriched environment, during the critical period of neural development. Active motor interventions are effective in some populations, however the effects of active motor interventions on the motor outcomes of infants with CP have not been researched thoroughly, but pilot work is promising. The aim of this study was to determine the short- term effects of "GAME"; a new and novel goal-oriented activity-based, environmental enrichment therapy programme on the motor development of infants at high risk of CP and test study procedures for a randomized controlled trial (RCT).
Methods: Pragmatic 2-group pilot RCT to assess motor outcomes, goal attainment, parent well-being and home environment quality, after 12-weeks of GAME intervention versus standard care. GAME included: creation of movement environments to elicit motor behaviours; parent training in motor learning and task analysis; frequent practice of motor tasks using a programme that was individualised to the child, was varied and focused on self-initiated movement. Data were analyzed using multiple regression.
Results: Thirteen infants were consented, randomised, treated and completed the study. At study conclusion, the GAME group (n = 6) demonstrated an advantage in Total Motor Quotient of 8.05 points on the Peabody Developmental Motor Scale-2 (PDMS-2) compared to the standard care group (n = 7) (p < .001). No significant differences existed between groups on any other measure.
Conclusions: GAME appears to offer a promising and feasible new motor intervention for CP, with favourable short-term motor outcomes. A pressing need exists for an adequately powered RCT with long-term end points, to determine if GAME may advance these children's motor trajectory.