Mercer University Researcher to Improve Adaptive Behavior in Kids with Cerebral Palsy

Alyssa LaForme Fiss, PT, PhD, was awarded the 2019 Pediatric Research Grant.

Adaptive behavior (AB) is a person’s ability to meet the demands of everyday living. It includes social, practical, and physical norms.  Research suggests that AB of children with cerebral palsy (CP) is lower than their peers. However, physical therapists do not explicitly focus on AB in treating children with CP.

Researcher Alyssa LaForme Fiss, PT, PhD, is learning more about how infants could benefit from AB physical therapy (AB-PT) intervention. The Associate Professor and Director of Research at Mercer University was awarded the 2019 Pediatric Research Grant to further her work.

LaForme Fiss and her research colleagues will use the grant to develop a novel AB-PT intervention program. “Appropriate adaptive behaviors have been associated with improved development in a variety of domains including motor, communication, self-care, play, and participation,” says LaForme Fiss. “Additionally, we hope these strategies will facilitate supportive parent interactions and responsiveness with their infants.”

LaForme Fiss believes the profession will increasingly rely on research to show the effectiveness of services. She sees an increased focus on participation and influences from precision medicine on the horizon. She calls on emerging researchers to find a supportive team to help meet new research demands. “These partnerships will allow for pooling of resources, knowledge, and skills to move physical therapy research forward more quickly,” says LaForme Fiss. “Additionally, in a time of competitive funding environments, I believe researchers must work to advocate for increasing funding to support the important research needed.”

LaForme Fiss anticipates that her research will support the development of a larger, multisite randomized controlled trial to investigate AB-PT intervention.

This grant is made possible by the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy (APPT). APPT has supported 45 FPTR scholarships, 3 fellowships, and 49 research grants.

“I am extremely grateful to APPT for their sponsorship of this award,” says LaForme Fiss. “My team and I look forward to sharing our results with APPT and the broader physical therapy community.”

Select Foundation Grants and Scholarships Awarded

Alyssa LaForme Fiss, MPT, PhD, Mercer University: LaForme Fiss was awarded the $40,000 Pediatric Research Grant for her project titled, “Estimation of Intervention Effectiveness to Improve Adaptive Behavior in Infants With Cerebral Palsy.” Her goal is to determine the effects of adaptive behavior physical therapy intervention delivered, in addition to traditional physical or occupational therapy services for families with infants diagnosed with or at high risk for CP. This grant is supported by the Pediatric Research Fund and the generosity of the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy.