Funded Projects

Research that shapes the future

The Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families & Schools is an interdisciplinary research center in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

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

Project Information

Principal Investigator: James Bovaird
Co-Principal Investigator:
Funding Agency: USED-IES
Award Date:
Theme: Early Education & Development, Psychosocial Development & Social-Emotional Learning
Project URL:

For more information please contact James Bovaird at


The purpose of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of a fully developed intervention designed to target sitting, reaching and motor-based problem solving in infancy to improve global development and readiness to learn for infants with motor delays or dysfunction.

The project is the first national randomized controlled trial of an intervention targeting the development of early motor skills to advance problem solving. Recent small sample trials from our consortium strongly suggest that very early intervention targeting sitting and reaching for infants with motor delays not only advances these behaviors during the intervention period but also the associated cognitive abilities after intervention. This intervention provides increased intensity and critical timing for targeting motor skills that are central for orienting and gathering information and learning to explore the environment and manipulate objects.

In our intervention, therapists and families work together to provide intensive, individualized, daily activities that advance reaching and sitting using small increments of challenge and support for the skills. Our intervention is based on developmental science and early education principles, built on the features of successful smaller trials and tracked by a set of comprehensive, sensitive, reliable assessment tools. Based on empirical and theoretical work suggesting reaching and sitting are early building blocks of problem solving, we predict that advancing these skills will improve school readiness.