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Are family-centred principles, functional goal setting and transition planning evident in therapy services for children with cerebral palsy?


Johanna Darrah, 2-50 Corbett Hall, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2G4, E-mail:


Background  Family-centred service, functional goal setting and co-ordination of a child's move between programmes are important concepts of rehabilitation services for children with cerebral palsy identified in the literature. We examined whether these three concepts could be objectively identified in programmes providing services to children with cerebral palsy in Alberta, Canada.

Methods  Programme managers (n= 37) and occupational and physical therapists (n= 54) representing 59 programmes participated in individual 1-h semi-structured interviews. Thirty-nine parents participated in eleven focus groups or two individual interviews. Evidence of family-centred values in mission statements and advisory boards was evaluated. Therapists were asked to identify three concepts of family-centred service and to complete the Measures of Process of Care for Service Providers. Therapists also identified therapy goals for children based on clinical case scenarios. The goals were coded using the components of the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health. Programme managers and therapists discussed the processes in their programmes for goal setting and for preparing children and their families for their transition to other programmes. Parents reflected on their experiences with their child's rehabilitation related to family-centredness, goal setting and co-ordination between programmes.

Results  All respondents expressed commitment to the three concepts, but objective indicators of family-centred processes were lacking in many programmes. In most programmes, the processes to implement the three concepts were informal rather than standardized. Both families and therapists reported limited access to general information regarding community supports.

Conclusion  Lack of formal processes for delivery of family-centred service, goal-setting and co-ordination between children's programmes may result in inequitable opportunities for families to participate in their children's rehabilitation despite attending the same programme. Standardized programme processes and policies may provide a starting point to ensure that all families have equitable opportunities to participate in their child's rehabilitation programme.