A universal standard of assessment and intervention: Improving the lives of children with movement difficulties

Academic: Professor D. Sugden, Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Leeds research has helped establish a universal standard for identifying, diagnosing and assisting children with motor impairment – the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (MABC). It is now used around the world to improve participation and movement competence in daily activities for children with movement difficulties.

Co-authored by Leeds, the MABC is an assessment and intervention package used in educational, health and psychological services globally. It provides a detailed and accurate study of motor development and impairment in children (3-16 years), including those with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), attention deficit disorder, autistic spectrum disorder and cerebral palsy.

The MABC has become the gold standard that is now used for research around the world for measuring and describing the severity of children with motor impairment.

Director, CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability, Mcmaster University, Canada

A new edition of the MABC contains three new standardised components, informed by Leeds research. The Test of motor impairment focuses on manual skills, aiming and catching, and balance skills, and compares a child’s performance with his/her peers. The Checklist measures performance on activities of daily living against given criteria. This two-step approach to assessment and diagnosis helps identify a child with motor difficulties. Thirdly, drawing on Leeds research, the intervention guidelines, Ecological Intervention, help health, educational and psychological professionals and parents determine strategies to assist children overcome movement difficulties through facilitating participation and learning.

Helping children around the world

The MABC is seen as the first choice for clinicians such as paediatricians, educational psychologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists around the world. For example, it is integral to the work of The Dyscovery Centre, a UK centre of excellence, successfully treating thousands of children from around the world with specific learning difficulties and training over 10,000 health and educational professionals. 

Reliable and valid

The MABC has been established as an internationally reliable and valid research tool. This allows researchers and professionals world-wide to agree on perceptions of children’s movement difficulties, contributing to accurate assessment and diagnosis for intervention and providing a reliable tool to measure improvements in thousands of children. For example, Swiss-German 2011 guidelines position the MABC as the nearest instrument to a gold standard. The MABC has been selected by Stanford University and the University of Bristol for major longitudinal studies to assess motor capabilities in the development of premature children.

Leeds has conducted MABC training workshops in the UK and abroad and the MABC has been translated into three languages, with a further four planned.

“(The MABC)…is valid and reliable and the children enjoy it and engage with it... It has been integral in our educational/clinical and research work over the past 15 years.”

Director, The Dyscovery Centre, University of Wales
Funders: NHS and Regional Health Commission Research