Research Program

Current Studies

SIT-PT: Comparison of Two Physical Therapy Approaches for Young Children Beginning to Sit

Funding: National Institutes of Health and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
Award no. 1R01HD101900-01

Clinical trials registry: NCT04230278


The purpose of the SIT-PT study is to compare the efficacy of two physical therapy interventions — MORE-PT and START-Play — while providing the same amount of intervention to both participant groups. The research team will investigate whether the benefits of START-Play are related to receiving more physical therapy or to the type of intervention provided.

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We are seeking participants now! Children ages 8 to 24-months-old with or at high risk of having cerebral palsy (CP) are eligible to participate when they are learning to sit.

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Completed Studies

Efficacy of the START-Play Program for Infants with Neuromotor Disorders

Funding: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
Award no. R324A150103


From 2015-2019, the START-Play research team conducted a national randomized controlled trial for the intervention. It was the first comprehensive research study to:

  • Assess whether early perceptual-motor intervention can positively and longitudinally impact global development, including cognition, when added to usual care.
  • Attempt to document the types of intervention activities taking place in early intervention for babies with neuromotor disorders.

Study questions

  1. Compared to traditional early intervention services, how effective was START-Play in promoting development and readiness to learn in infants with motor delays?
  2. How did START-Play change motor skills like sitting and reaching over time and did these motor changes influence young children’s cognitive development and/or problem-solving skills?


The purpose of the trial of was to evaluate the effectiveness of START-Play and compare it kind of care babies would usually receive in their communities.


155 families from across the U.S. participated with infants between 7–16 months of age. Infants presented motor delays and were just beginning to sit.

  • 50% randomized to receive the START-Play intervention.
  • 50% continued with traditional early intervention services.
  • All infants continued any programs that they were currently enrolled in and START-Play did not alter these services.

Study design

Longitudinal, randomized controlled trial.


Research took place in homes in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington and Virginia.


Infants in the START-Play group received 24 sessions of intervention over three months.

  • Measures of motor and cognitive development were collected at enrollment, again at 1.5, 3, 6 and 12 months.
  • Parents completed surveys about services, child’s medical history, family demographics and language skills.


START-Play provided individualized twice-weekly home intervention for 12 weeks with families to enhance cognition through sitting, reaching and problem-solving activities for infants. See the intervention details.

  • Ten interventionists provided the intervention.
  • Each infant was assigned one therapist.


Angles-Video Goniometer


While the team continues to follow many of the children who participated in the study for long-term assessment, we have important results to share. See what we’re learning.

Supplemental Studies

Relation Between Motor, Cognitive, and Language Skills during Infancy: An Extension of the START-Play Clinical Trial

Funding: Children’s Hospital Foundation Research Grant
PIs: Stacy C. Dusing, Emily Marcinowski

How Does Parent Child Interaction Affect the Developmental of Object Construction During Infancy?

Funding: Virginia Commonwealth University Post-Doctoral Association Research Grant

Estimation of Intervention Effectiveness to Improve Adaptive Behavior in Infants with Cerebral Palsy: A Pilot Study

Funding: Virginia Foundation for Physical Therapy Research Grant
PIs: Alyssa LaForme Fiss; Site-PI: Lin-Ya Hsu; Co-I: Sarah W. McCoy

RCT: Evaluation of the Efficacy of a Physical Therapy Intervention Targeting Sitting and Reaching for Young Children with Cerebral Palsy

Funding: NIH