To advance its mission to improve the lives of cerebral palsy (CP) patients and their families, the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation has awarded researchers nearly $16,000 in small grants in 2019.
The funding will go toward researcher training, equipment, and travel to multiple under-served countries to help treat CP patients and assist families.
Training funds will support Susanne Martin Herz, MD, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, in her effort to learn how to administer the General Movements Assessment in order to swiftly diagnose and treat CP, potentially leading to improved outcomes. Performed on infants from birth to 20 weeks, the assessment is a non-invasive and cost-effective way to identify neurological issues early.
After her training, Herz will share the experience with pediatricians in low- and middle-income countries, as well as those in the United States. The hope is to increase early cerebral palsy diagnosis and treatment.
Danielle Levac, PhD, of Northeastern University, will use an equipment grant to establish a mobile virtual reality laboratory to discover how young CP patients learn new movement skills, and how such skills can transfer to real-life environments. The lab’s mobility will allow it to reach a relatively high number of children.
Scientists will use travel grants to journey to Belize, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. In Malawi, Katherine Herman and Juliette Schmidli of Otis College of Art and Design will instruct caregivers in the use of Appropriate Paper-Based Technology — a published comprehensive survey of the technologies for making a broad range of products with paper.
In this case, the technology refers to low-cost, templated, corrugated cardboard chairs that help children with CP sit upright, thereby strengthening weakened muscles. The hope is also that, from their new vantage point, the young patients will improve eye contact with others and improve their social interaction.
In Zimbabwe, Margaret Cristofalo, PhD, of Seattle University, will visit the Children’s Rehabilitation Unit (CRU) at Harare Children’s Hospital to investigate the lives of caregivers of children with developmental disabilities. While supporting CRU research, she hopes to pinpoint ways to enhance long-term outcomes for children with CP, and to improve the quality of life for their families.
Elsewhere, Nia Mensah of Long Island University will lead occupational and physical therapy students on a trip to Belize, where nearly 400,000 residents have one physical therapist and no occupational therapists.
Globally, an estimated 17 million individuals have cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood.