The Infant Motor Profile (IMP) is sweeping Europe and taking over as the standardized assessment for infants who are born preterm. The assessment was created by world-renowned developmental neurologist Dr. Minja Hadders-Algra (The Netherlands) and it is the first test to jointly consider quality of movement, milestones, and fine and gross motor skills.

Difficulties of Early Intervention Assessments

Preterm developmental issues observed by early intervention therapists are often difficult to differentiate as a simple delay due to prematurity or a delay that is an atypical movement or development. One of the challenges in assessing infants born preterm is that the assessments must cover a wide spectrum of developmental issues. There are very few assessments that are comprehensive and have a good predictive value.

Jan McElroy, tDPT faculty

Jan McElroy, PT, PhD, PCS, C/NDTA, is a faculty member in our Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy program & Pediatric Institute.

Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) faculty member Dr. Jan McElroy has been trained in the IMP assessment and uses it daily in her own practice. She states, “It is the first test to come along that looks to be the most successful for NICU follow-up clinics, early intervention therapists seeing infants born preterm after coming out of the NICU, and for other younger infants that have motor issues that don’t show up on other tests.”

The most commonly used NICU follow-up assessments are the Peabody II and Bayley III. The literature is clear that these tests are helpful when a child gets closer to three years old, but are not sensitive enough for infants that are born preterm. The DayC2 test is also commonly used by many early intervention programs and lacks the sensitivity to accurately identify infants born preterm who exhibit developmental delays.

Advantages of the Infant Motor Profile (IMP)

The IMP uses a similar movement quality assessment to the General Movements Assessment (GMA), which has been a highly successful assessment in the NICU. The IMP is easy to administer and primarily observational. The test is valid from as early as two months of age up until the time the child can walk independently, no matter their chronological or adjusted age. The IMP has proven to also be predictive of cerebral palsy and other general motor issues, such as minimal brain dysfunction and developmental coordination disorder.  

While this assessment has become common in Europe, the IMP has only recently reached the United States – and it has only been taught in the United States a handful of times. On July 14-15, Dr. Hadders-Algra will be at RMUoHP to administer the IMP training in person to early intervention specialists interested in learning this new test.

“Providers would acquire an assessment skill to more accurately assess very young infants (and infants born preterm) in their early intervention practice. And that assessment will give them a broader base for planning their interventions,” states Dr. McElroy. She urges new providers to take this course to develop a better sensitivity to those subtle behaviors in infants born preterm or born small that can cause long-term issues. “This is an area that differentiates between a master clinician and a new provider. It’s what makes a master clinician more effective,” added Dr. McElroy.

Dr. McElroy continued, “I feel really strongly about the IMP and fortunate to bring Dr. Hadders-Algra to the University directly. It is the most valuable assessment I have ever used in my practice. It has improved my assessment skills, observation skills, and treatment planning skills more than any other assessment I have ever used.”

For more information on the Infant Motor Profile course July 14-15 or the Pediatric Institute at RMUoHP, please visit our website https://rm.edu/academics/continuing-education/ or flyer.