Home-based training is considered an important intervention in rehabilitation of children with unilateral cerebral palsy. Despite consensus on the value of home-based upper limb training, no evidence-based best practice exists. Promoting compliance of children to adhere to an intensive program while keeping parental stress levels low is an important challenge when designing home-based training programs. Incorporating implicit motor learning principles emerges to be a promising method to resolve this challenge.
Here we describe two protocols for home-based bimanual training programs, one based on implicit motor learning principles and one based on explicit motor learning principles, for children with unilateral spastic cerebral palsy aged 2 through 7 years. Children receive goal-oriented, task-specific bimanual training in their home environment from their parents for 3.5 h/week for 12 weeks according to an individualized program. Parents will be intensively coached by a multidisciplinary team, consisting of a pediatric therapist and remedial educationalist. Both programs consist of a preparation phase (goal setting, introductory meetings with coaching professionals, design of individualized program, instruction of parents, home visit) and home-based training phase (training, video-recordings, registrations, and telecoaching and home visits by the coaching team). The programs contrast with respect to the teaching strategy, i.e. how the parents support their child during training. In both programs parents provide their child with instructions and feedback that focus on the activity (i.e. task-oriented) or the result of the activity (i.e. result-oriented). However, in the explicit program parents are in addition instructed to give exact instructions and feedback on the motor performance of the bimanual activities, whereas in the implicit program the use of both hands and the appropriate motor performance of the activity are elicited via manipulation of the organization of the activities.
With the protocols described here, we aim to take a next step in the development of much needed evidence-based home-based training programs for children with unilateral cerebral palsy.