Enhancing Early Learning for Children with Special Needs (ENABLE)

Principal Investigator:

Heather Taylor, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Co-Investigators:

Marcia Barnes, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

Cathy Guttentag, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Susan H. Landry, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Kathryn Ostermaier, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine

Paul R. Swank, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Funding Agency:

Institute of Educational Sciences (IES)

Description of the Project:

The goal of this study is to determine the effectiveness of a parenting program on early learning and motor development of infants with spina bifida and infants with tone and strength difficulties, including cerebral palsy. The study investigates whether an integrated parent responsiveness and motor support intervention targeting these infants will result in changes in parent behavior leading to improvements in the overall development of such core skills and competencies such as attention, cognition, goal-directed play, language, and motor performance. Past research has shown a more responsive parenting style improves children’s development and learning, as do motor support strategies with motor development and learning, but rarely have the two been tested together.


The project involves recruitment of children diagnosed with spina bifida or problems with tone and strength, such as cerebral palsy. These children, along with their parents, will be randomly assigned to one of three research intervention groups. One group will be exposed to the Play and Learning Strategies to Enable Children with Disabilities (PALS-Enable) program. The second will work with Play and Learning Strategies (PALS) program. The third will be a comparison group that instead of receiving intervention strategies, will receive developmental information with a weekly phone call from coaches. Each group's intervention will be delivered once a week for 14 weeks.

PALS is a nationally recognized program developed by CLI Director, Dr. Susan Landry, Ph.D., that promotes early learning through in-home coaching by trained experts who use weekly meetings, materials, and video feedback to improve parent-child interactions and stimulate early language, cognition, and social development. PALS-Enable uses the same strategies as PALS, but also includes motor supportive strategies. These strategies are designed to improve the child’s positioning and movement to ease exploration of the environment.

Participants:

One-hundred eighty infants diagnosed with spina bifida or problems with tone and strength such as cerebral palsy. These children, along with their parents, will be randomly assigned to one of three research intervention groups detailed above.

Sites:

This study is a collaborative effort among the Children’s Learning institute at UTHealth, TIRR Memorial Herman, and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Timeline:

2012 –2016