Cerebral palsy (CP) is not a progressive disorder, meaning
it does not worsen over time, but going to therapy and treatment sessions will
help improve your child’s quality of life. Some symptoms can even improve with continued therapy for
cerebral palsy. No two children
with CP are the same, so each treatment plan is tailored for each
individual. The different therapy
and treatment you use will depend on your child’s needs.
Physical Therapy is perhaps the most important therapy and
treatment for cerebral palsy.
Children with CP often have poor muscle tone, favor one side, or have
difficulty with tense muscles.
Physical therapists for cerebral palsy will use exercises to prevent
disuse atrophy, or the deterioration of muscles that are not used, and to
prevent contracture, or the muscles that are kept in a rigid position. Physical therapy also focuses on
strength training to build muscle tone.
Physical therapy can also help stretch spastic muscles, which allows the
muscles to grow at a rate compatible with bone growth.
Poor body function and posture are also commonly associated
with CP, and occupational therapists work to increase a child’s mobility and
help them reach their full potential with regards to daily functions. Occupational therapy focuses on
activities of daily living, or the actions of dressing, eating, bathing, and
toileting. This therapy and
treatment helps provide some independence for individuals with CP, thus
relieving some responsibility of parents and caregivers. Occupational therapy might also
coincide with physical therapy, and some goals of each therapy are similar,
such as to improve muscle tone.
Some additional therapy and treatment for cerebral palsy
includes recreational activities such as music and equine therapy. Equine therapy, also sometimes called
hippotherapy (horsebackriding) has shown to be effective for cerebral
palsy. Many success stories
include children with CP learning how to walk after equine therapy
sessions. The act of riding a
horse improves muscle tone and posture, two key targets for CP treatment, and
it also focuses on balance, focus, and coordination. The instruction for grooming and care of horses also
connects with children with CP on an emotional level. Music therapy works on physical, language, and cognitive
development through musical experiences; when these exercises are paired with
music, a child with CP is more likely to be motivated to participate. Other recreational therapy and
treatment might include video games and other general physical activity like
swimming and sports.
Many children with CP struggle with speech, and because of
poor muscle coordination, using sign language, hand gestures, or facial
expressions is also difficult.
Speech therapy and treatment focuses on the particular needs of a child
with CP. Speech therapists might
focus on the child saying a particular letter until that skill is mastered, or
they might teach a child with CP how to hold up his head and give eye contact
as a better way of communicating socially. For those children with severe disabilities, speech therapy
might also teach the use of assistive communication devices.
Drug Therapy and
Other therapy and treatment for cerebral palsy includes
drugs to manage certain symptoms.
Seizures are fairly common for children with CP, so taking seizure
medication might be necessary, as is medication for heartburn or relieving
stiff muscles. When muscle
stiffness causes too much pain for walking and moving, orthopedic surgery can
help. Lengthening muscles that are
too short through surgery helps with growth and gait.
A combination of therapy and treatment for cerebral palsy is
likely necessary, and visits to therapists occur many times a week. However, through continued treatment,
children with CP can maximize their potential.