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Active Families Research Project
Active Families Research Program


Twenty toddlers born with a heart defect were asked to take part in the study. The participants had undergone either a Glenn Shunt procedure or an arterial switch operation and were between the ages of 12 and 26 months.

Each child’s level of development was determined using a special test called the Peabody test. This was done at the first testing session and after the home program was over. Three types of development were looked at with this test: gross motor skills, fine motor skills and visual motor integration. Gross motor skills include activities like moving around, catching and kicking balls; fine motor skills involve using your fingers and hands to hold objects or draw; and visual motor integration includes activities like turning pages and doing puzzles that use the eyes and hands together.  Through activity logbooks and interviews with parents, we also looked at how often the activities were done and what barriers got in the way of parents doing these activities at home.

Children who underwent a Glenn Shunt procedure had lower than expected scores at the first testing session. Children who had the arterial switch operation had average scores at the start of the study. All participants improved at the same rate as healthy children during the study. This suggests that children who had the Glenn Shunt procedure developed more quickly during the study than they had before the study started. Children who had the arterial switch operation continued to develop at a normal rate during the study. These results suggest that the parent-delivered, home program may have helped children with complex heart problems develop at a typical rate. The most common barriers identified by parents for causing difficulty to complete the activities at home were: the child being sick, family vacations, the child not being interested in activities that were advanced for their age, lack of access to the needed toys and difficulty to find the time.

Poster presentations can be downloaded from the links below.

  • Motor development among toddlers with complex heart defects: feasibility of home-based, parent-provided physical activity. Download poster
  • Improving motor development of toddlers with congenital heart defects using a home-based intervention: a pilot study. Download poster