Objective. Muscle imbalance and poor control of movement can have an impact on the daily occupational functioning of children with cerebral palsy. When one side of the body functions better than the other children will often prefer to use the less-involved upper extremity for completion of play and self-care activities because they have learned that the other hand does not function as effectively. This study examined a method purported to overcome this learned nonuse other affected upper extremity by directing the child’s attention to this extremity and increasing his or her motivation to use it. The research hypothesis was that restriction other less-involved hand with a resting splint would result in increased use of the more-involved hand in a child with spastic cerebral palsy.
Method. Initially, two children with cerebral palsy participated in this single-subject, ABA design study, but only one subject complied with the splint-wearing schedule and completed the study. This subject was a 2-year-old girl with greater involvement of the right side than the left. During the experimental phase, she wore a resting splint on her less-involved hand for most of the waking hours of the day to restrict its use. Data were collected over a 7week period (2 weeks presplinting, 3 weeks splinting, 2 weeks postsplinting) and at a 6-month follow-up. Use of the more-involved extremity was measured through analysis of her performance during 15-min Videotaped sessions of free play, administration of items from the Peabody Developmental Fine Motor Scales, and completion of a daily finger-feeding task.
Results. An improvement in quality, quantity, and variety of use of the more-involved extremity after splinting, with some continuing improvement evident at follow up, was found. The subject had increased voluntary control other more-involved arm and hand and used them more spontaneously for completion of daily occupations.
Conclusions. Although the results of this single-case design are encouraging, further research with a randomized, controlled design is necessary to determine the effectiveness of the forced-use technique with a larger population.