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Efficacy of the START-Play Program for Infants with Neuromotor Disorders


Research Team


Principal Investigator: James Bovaird

Funding Information

Funding Agency: Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Subcontract from: Duquesne University

Award Date: Jul 1, 2015

End Date: Jun 30, 2022


This project is funded by a subcontract from Duquesne University.

This project evaluates the efficacy of a fully developed intervention designed to target sitting, reaching and motor-based problem solving in infancy to improve global development and readiness to learn for infants with motor delays or dysfunction.

The project is the first national randomized controlled trial of an intervention targeting the development of early motor skills to advance problem-solving. Recent small sample trials strongly suggest that very early intervention targeting sitting and reaching for infants with motor delays not only advances these behaviors during the intervention period but also the associated cognitive abilities after intervention. This intervention provides increased intensity and critical timing for targeting motor skills that are central for orienting and gathering information and learning to explore the environment and manipulate objects. 

In this study, therapists and families work together to provide intensive, individualized, daily activities that advance reaching and sitting using small increments of challenge and support for the skills. The project is based on developmental science and early education principles, built on the features of successful smaller trials and tracked by a set of comprehensive, sensitive, reliable assessment tools. Based on empirical and theoretical work suggesting reaching and sitting are early building blocks of problem solving, we predict that advancing these skills will improve school readiness.

Social, Emotional and Behavioral Well-being, Early Childhood Education and Development

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