About the study

Six hundred children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) each year, with >35,000 people living with CP in Australia. Over 61% of children with CP have “bilateral” motor involvement, impairing movement on both sides of the body. Evidence to support the efficacy of current treatments to improve motor outcomes is limited. This project aims to investigate a new treatment approach that targets training both the left and right arms and legs. This treatment is called Hand Arm Bimanual Intensive Training Including Lower Extremity, or HABITILE. We already have evidence that this approach is effective for older school-aged children (6-16yrs) with bilateral CP. Yet children with CP reach 90% of their gross motor/movement potential by 5 years of age so an earlier intervention is needed to maximize the opportunity for their developing brains to learn how to move. To address this, we will test the effectiveness of Preschool HABIT-ILE in the first randomized controlled trial for children with bilateral CP aged 2 to 5 years. Outcomes are expected to transform current therapeutic approaches and significantly improve the quality of life for these children.

The Preschool HABIT-ILE study will be conducted in Brisbane, Australia. Please see the study flyer for further information.

Study Methods

Preschool HABIT-ILE is a motor learning approach simultaneously addressing coordination of the upper and lower limbs. We will deliver a total doses of 40 hours of Preschool HABIT-ILE and it will be achieved through a 2 week groups program delivered for 4 hrs/day over 10 days. Home program activities will be provided for children and families to practice at home and it is anticipated that this will provide an additional 10 hours of therapy over the 2 week period. Each group will involve 4 to 6 children and intervention will be based on the child’s motor abilities, age, interests and the priority goals identified by their parents.  

Recruitment Criteria

This study seeks children who

  • Have a confirmed diagnosis of bilateral CP (diplegia/quadriplegia), GMFCS levels II (sits on floor, can move between sitting and standing, crawls, moves holding furniture) to IV (sits on floor when placed but difficulty maintaining balance, requires equipment for standing and sitting);
  • Aged 2 to 5 years;
  • Ability to grasp light objects and lift more impaired arm 15cm above a table surface;
  • Able to understand instructions and complete testing.
  • Have not had uncontrolled seizures in the previous 6 months
  • Do not have planned orthopaedic and/or neurological surgery in the six months prior to or scheduled during study period (eligible for inclusion if at least 12 months post orthopaedic/neurological surgery)
  • Do not have a visual impairment interfering with treatment/testing  




Funding source: Ramaciotti Foundation

Grant Type: Health Investment Grant

Start / End Date: 2020 to 2022


Chief Investigators

A/Prof. Leanne Sakzewski, Dr Sarah Reedman, Ms Kate McLeod, Ms Megan Thorley,  Mrs Andrea Burgess, Prof. Stewart Trost, Mr Matthew Ahmadi, Dr David Rowell, Prof. Yannick Bleyenheuft, Prof. Roslyn Boyd.

Project members

Associate Professor Leanne Sakzewski

NHMRC Career Development Fellow (Occupational Therapy)

Dr Sarah Reedman

Research Fellow (Physiotherapist)

Dr Andrea Burgess

Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Occupational Therapy)