Visual abilities in children with cerebral palsy

This research project will develop an assessment for visual ability in children with cerebral palsy. Visual ability is defined as ‘how vision is used’, and consists of the visual behaviours that are observable during typical daily activities.

The program of research will answer why a measure of visual ability should be used with children with cerebral palsy; who should assess visual ability and whether parents and clinicians without expertise in vision can measure visual abilities; determine which children are important to assess; establish how visual ability be measured and described; and provide evidence for validity of the new assessment tool.

This research is interested in the visual abilities of children with cerebral palsy. ‘Visual ability’ describes how children use their vision in daily activities. This is different to how the eyes work or how the brain understands visual information. Some children with cerebral palsy will have no problems using vision, whilst other children may have lots of difficulty. We are interested in all children with cerebral palsy, and the parents and professionals who work with these children.

The outcomes of this research will be used to optimise outcomes for children with cerebral palsy who do not use their visual abilities optimally.

Questions such as “how does this child use their vision?”, “is it important to consider their vision?”, “will use of vision improve?” and “what can be done to improve vision use?” cannot currently be answered using existing evidence.
This gap in clinical and research practice has the potential to significantly impact the outcomes for at least some children with CP and their families. There is scope for the development of new treatments or interventions to address limitations in visual abilities, particularly with early identification and early intervention.

Valid and reliable measurement is a prerequisite for establishing the effectiveness of interventions targeting visual abilities. Therefore, this research will focus on the development of an assessment, and future work will establish effective interventions to address limitations identified.

An online survey on visual abilities in children with cerebral palsy was open during April-June 2017 and is now closed. This survey forms one step in the research project to develop and test a new way to assess visual abilities of children with CP.

The purpose of the survey was to ask parents and caregivers of children with CP, or infants at high risk of CP (including any type of CP and visual abilities); adults with CP; and professionals who work with children with CP and their families about visual abilities. We want to know what they/you think is important, and this survey will help us to decide on the content and development of a new assessment.

The results of the survey will be published in the near future. Please contact the research team with any questions.

This research is currently active and will be recruiting participants at multiple time-points. If you are interested in participating in research related to visual abilities in children with cerebral palsy please email the Principal Investigator on

This research has been initiated by PhD Student Belinda Deramore Denver – Occupational Therapist, Australian Catholic University, NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Cerebral Palsy, Centre for Disability & Development Research.

The research team also includes Associate Professor Elspeth Froude (Australian Catholic University), Professor Christine Imms (Australian Catholic University, Centre for Disability & Development Research), and Professor Peter Rosenbaum (CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University, Canada).

This research is supported by a $50,000 Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation Career Development Grant awarded to Belinda Deramore Denver for 2017-2018.

Deramore Denver, B., Froude, E., Rosenbaum, P., Wilkes-Gillan, S., & lmms, C. (2016). Measurement of visual ability in children with cerebral palsy: a systematic review. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 58, 1016-29. doi:10.1111/dmcn.13139

Deramore Denver, B., Adolfsson, M., Froude, E., Rosenbaum, P., & lmms, C. (2017). Methods for conceptualising ‘visual ability’ as a measurable construct in children with cerebral palsy. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 17(1), 46. 10.1186/s12874-017-0316-6

If you are interested and would like more information about this study please contact:
Belinda Deramore Denver, PhD candidate | Occupational Therapist
School of Allied Health | Australian Catholic University
Level 9, 33 Berry Street, North Sydney NSW 2060
T: 02 9739 2845 | M: 0433 804 543