FPTR Scholarship to Fund Research in Improved Motor Function in Children with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect mobility, balance, and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in children. Children with CP often experience significant delay in motor-related milestones – such as sitting, crawling, and standing – because of their inability to keep their head and trunk upright. Such delays can lead to decreased engagement with peers and their environment. However, specific interventions that target postural control can improve motor development and engagement.

Developmental Pediatric Physical Therapist and Graduate Research Assistant at the Ohio State University, Rachel L Bican, PT, DPT, is developing high-intensity physical therapy intervention targeting and evaluating postural control in children two-years-old and younger that exhibit mild to moderate CP. Bican was recently awarded a 2020 Foundation for Physical Therapy Research (FPTR) Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) II Scholarship, made possible by the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy through the Foundation’s Neurology Endowment Fund, to fund this work.

This scholarship was designated as the Mary Lou Barnes Award for her outstanding PODS II application in postprofessional studies within neurology. The PODS Scholarship funds post-professional doctoral students, who, having completed one full year of coursework, wish to continue their studies or have entered the dissertation phase of their post-professional doctoral program.

“My dissertation research focuses on factors that contribute to the severity of cerebral palsy and rehabilitation approaches to improve motor function for this population,” said Bican. “I hope to expand upon this research to address health equity for children with developmental motor delays to improve access to care and quality of life for these children and their families.”

As part of her study, “High-Intensity RehAbilitation to Improve Postural Performance in Children with Mild-to-Moderate Cerebral PalsY (The HAPPY Study),” Bican initially intended to identify changes in postural control following a high-intensity intervention and define the relationship between postural control, gross motor skill attainment, and reaching skills. However, Bican needed to quickly adapt to the changes brought about by COVID-19 and alter her research goals. Bican is now exploring factors that contribute to the severity of CP including race, socio-economic status, gestational age and birth weight, and county-level habitancy.

Bican is also the recipient of three other FPTR scholarships: a 2019 PODS II, a 2018 PODS I, and a 2017 Florence P. Kendall Scholarship. Bican has been grateful to FPTR for the continuous support she has received over the course of her education.

“The research support I have procured from FPTR has tremendously shaped my research focus and has accelerated my goals towards becoming an independent researcher,” said Bican. “Applying and obtaining the PODS has allowed me to plan and commit to my research, provided me dedicated time to complete the aspects of my research, and helped me form a mentorship team.”

Including Bican, FPTR awarded $212,500 in fellowship and scholarship funding to 12 promising physical therapist researchers. The awards will help these new investigators begin their research careers and complete doctoral studies. FPTR funding is awarded based on a review process modeled after the National Institutes of Health. (link to our funding page)

Select Foundation Grants and Scholarships Awarded



  • Bican R, Durbak E, Taranto A, Lowes L, Alfano L, McNally M, Heathcock J. Anti-gravity movements and fine and gross motor skill in infants with and without motor delay. Pediatric Physical Therapy. 29(1):E7-E43, 2017.

  • Bican R, McNally M, Durbak E, Alfano L, Lowes L, Heathcock J. The Relationship of spatial and temporal kinematic variables to coordinated upper extremity movement and motor skill development. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 60(2):28-74, 2018.

  • Barbosa G, Bican R, Heathcock J. Reaching performance in infants with cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 60(2):28-74, 2018.