Task-specific gross motor skills training for ambulant school-aged children with cerebral palsy: a systematic review

Rachel Toovey, Charmaine Bernie, Adrienne R. Harvey, Jennifer L. McGinley, Alicia J. Spittle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Objectives: The primary objective is to systematically evaluate the evidence for the effectiveness of task-specific training (TST) of gross motor skills for improving activity and/or participation outcomes in ambulant school-aged children with cerebral palsy (CP). The secondary objective is to identify motor learning strategies reported within TST and assess relationship to outcome. Design: Systematic review. Method: Relevant databases were searched for studies including: children with CP (mean age >4 years and >60% of the sample ambulant); TST targeting gross motor skills and activity (skill performance, gross motor function and functional skills) and/or participation-related outcomes. Quality of included studies was assessed using standardised tools for risk of bias, study design and quality of evidence across outcomes. Continuous data were summarised for each study using standardised mean difference (SMD) and 95% CIs. Results: Thirteen studies met inclusion criteria: eight randomised controlled trials (RCTs), three comparative studies, one repeated-measures study and one single-subject design study. Risk of bias was moderate across studies. Components of TST varied and were often poorly reported. Within-group effects of TST were positive across all outcomes of interest in 11 studies. In RCTs, between-group effects were conflicting for skill performance and functional skills, positive for participation-related outcomes (one study: Life-HABITS performance SMD=1.19, 95% CI 0.3 to 2.07, p<0.001; Life-HABITS satisfaction SMD=1.29, 95% CI 0.40 to 2.18, p=0.001), while no difference or negative effects were found for gross motor function. The quality of evidence was low-to-moderate overall. Variability and poor reporting of motor learning strategies limited assessment of relationship to outcome. Conclusions: Limited evidence for TST for gross motor skills in ambulant children with CP exists for improving activity and participation-related outcomes and recommendations for use over other interventions are limited by poor study methodology and heterogeneous interventions. Registration: PROSPERO ID42016036727
Original languageEnglish
Article number00078
Number of pages13
JournalBMJ Paediatrics Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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