SMART - a Trial of a New Cognitive Rehabilitation Program for Children with Cerebral Palsy

9 Aug 2018
Child using the SMART program.
Child using the SMART program.

Nearly half of all children with Cerebral Palsy (CP) experience cognitive difficulties that can impact everyday functioning and educational achievement. While there is growing awareness of these challenges, interventions for CP have typically focused on improving physical activity, limb function, and participation in daily living activities.  Recruitment has recently begun at QCPRRC for a randomised controlled trial that aims to test the effectiveness of a novel online cognitive training program for children between 8 and 12 years old with mild to moderate CP.

The program - Strengthening Mental Abilities Through Relational Training (SMART) - is founded upon relational frame theory. This theory suggests that language and complex thinking are underpinned by our ability to understand relationships between objects, known as relational framing. If efficacious, an online program designed to train relational framing ability and potentially improve complex reasoning would be a cost-effective intervention, accessible from home for children with CP.

All participants in the SMART study will gain access to the web-based SMART training program that can be completed from home, over laptop, PC or tablet either immediately on or after 6 months. Participants will receive training in relational framing through an online, user-friendly platform. Children answer problems and receive immediate feedback during 30-minute online training sessions, three times a week for approximately 12 weeks. Participants will be randomly assigned to an intervention group or waitlist control, all participants will receive access to the program by the end of the study. A comprehensive psychological assessment will be completed before beginning the study, at 20 weeks after beginning, and again at 40 weeks. Recruitment is now under way and it is expected that recruitment will continue over the next 12 months.

Recruitment is now under way and it is expected that recruitment will continue over the next 12 months.

Who can participate?

This study is open to children living in Queensland who meet the following criteria:

  • aged from 8 to 12 years of age
  • with mild to moderate Cerebral Palsy (GMFCS I-III)
  • able to access an online program and perform tasks on iPad, tablet, Mac or PC
  • able to attend three assessment sessions at the Centre for Children’s Health Research in Brisbane.

Exclusion criteria:

  • unstable epilepsy or brain injury; children currently undergoing active medical treatment (chemotherapy, radiotherapy or neurosurgical treatment).


If you would like to find out more about this study, please contact:

Jane Wotherspoon (PhD student) Phone: (07) 3069 7367 Email:

This project is funded by the Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) Scholarship

Chief Investigators: Jane Wotherspoon, Dr Koa Whittingham, Dr Jeanie Sheffield, and Prof. Roslyn Boyd.