Data_Sheet_3_Gymnastic-Based Movement Therapy for Children With Neurodevelopmental Disabilities: Results From a Pilot Feasibility Study.PDF
Background: Developmental and behavioral issues often limit the participation of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) in community-based activities with their peers, which decreases opportunities for their social learning and development. Parents of children with NDD seek out programs that address physical and psychosocial development. Several studies already support the positive effects for the child to attend physical activity programs (PAPs). However, these studies are highly prone to biases and Hawthorne effect. In the planning stage of a large prospective study to assess the effectiveness of PAPs we reviewed the records of children who participated in a gymnastic-based program, the Empowering Steps Movement Therapy (ESMT). Besides generating useful data for developing the prospective study we thought these data reflect the rate of changes in context of normal practice in a naturalistic environment; therefore protected from Hawthorne effect and other biases.
Design: This is a historical cohort: the files of 67 children with NDD were examined across a 2-year period (Jan 2011 to Jan 2013). As part of standard practice, the ESMT therapists document changes in motor function every 6 months, using the ESMT's proprietary motor scale. Parents also completed a parental questionnaire in June 2011 regarding their perceptions of changes in their child's physical and psychosocial function, as well as family functioning since their child started the program.
Results: Linear Mixed Effects Model clearly identified three groups according to changes in motor function: the ones with rapid changes (mostly functional children with autism spectrum disorder: n = 13), the ones with moderate changes (different types of NDD diagnoses: n = 41) and the ones that did not change or even decreased motor skills over the follow-up (children with complex diseases or uncontrolled epilepsy despite treatment: n = 13). Parental questionnaires (n = 39) reported improvement in most of the children's physical and psychosocial abilities; they also indicated improvement in some of the family parameters. There was no association between the changes in children's motor functions and parents' responses to the questionnaire.
Conclusion: Despite limitations due to the retrospective nature of the study, the absence of a control group and the absence of validated measurement tools, the observed positive effects of attending movement therapy center on motor performance and psychosocial development confirm in a naturalistic environment what has been shown in context of clinical trials or quasi-experimental studies. These results are not conclusive. They warrant further, rigorous investigation using validated instruments, independent assessors, and control groups.