"Absolutely, independence is the motivator for those children.”
UQ Senior Research Fellow Dr Leanne Sakzewski reinforces these words when speaking about her research designed to improve the lives of children who have cerebral palsy.
Unlike many traditional treatments which centre on children receiving occupational therapy and/or physiotherapy for one hour a week over six to eight weeks, Dr Sakzewski’s study is all about intensity.
“Kids aged six to 16 years old come to a day camp for six and a half hours, five days a week over a fortnight, so they have 65 hours of very intense rehabilitation that is targeting the functional goals important to them,” Dr Sakzewski explains.
The program, conducted at the Queensland Cerebral Palsy and Rehabilitation Research Centre, involves 120 children at the Queensland Children’s Hospital and two other sites around Australia.
“Most children will set four to five goals for themselves. The older children can be very articulate about what they want to achieve.
“Children with more mobility challenges want to do things like independently transfer from their wheelchair to the classroom chair or the toilet without someone else helping.
“There’s a lot of different goals and they’re all highly nuanced to each child and their capabilities and motivations.”
The anecdotal results are promising and the research project will be completed in December 2021.
“Looking at the kids before and after the camps, some of them fully achieve their goals and are making major changes,” Dr Sakzewski recounts.
“We hope our study will show this treatment is effective in helping these kids achieve their goals, increase their mobility, improve their independence, and enhance how they use their two hands together.
“We also want our results to inform the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to support these intensive models of therapy for children with cerebral palsy.”