Occupational Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

Occupational therapy teaches people with cerebral palsy how to adapt to their abilities and environment. In doing so, they become more independent and happy.  Occupational therapy teaches people how to complete daily routines, be part of their community and develop skills that help them succeed in life.

Occupational Therapy for Cerebral Palsy Explained

Occupational therapy helps people with cerebral palsy perform tasks necessary to their daily life. Occupational therapy helps patients build new skills, solve challenges that limit their independence and live healthy, happy lives.

Occupational therapy helps patients maintain their dignity and improve their quality of life by boosting self-reliance and confidence. Occupational therapy will consider a person’s daily  environments, including home, school or work, and make adjustments to help the patient complete tasks on their own.

Occupational therapy can help a cerebral palsy patient with many aspects of life, including:

  • Getting dressed
  • Teeth brushing
  • Cooking
  • Eating
  • Showering and bathing
  • Cleaning up
  • Holding or grasping objects
  • Opening doors or locks
  • Traveling and getting around
  • Using modern technologies like phones, computers and assistive devices
  • Reading and writing
  • Playing and having fun
  • Socializing

Occupational therapy should change as the patient ages to reflect their needs. For example, young children may play with stimulating toys to improve mobility and movement, while a young adult may learn skills that will help them enter the workforce and maintain a job.

The earlier occupational therapy begins, the better the lifelong results are for a person with cerebral palsy.

Occupational Therapy and Therapists

Occupational therapy for cerebral palsy is a diverse form of treatment. The objective is to help a person successfully perform daily routines without assistance, from when they wake in the morning until they fall asleep at the end of the day. This therapy helps improve their independence and quality of life.

Occupational therapy is performed by occupational therapists and their assistants in a private or public setting. Occupational therapists hold master’s degrees, while their assistants typically have completed 2-year associate degree program.

Occupational therapy can benefit many aspects of life. Some occupational therapists choose to focus on children patients with cerebral palsy. Children will often be referred to a pediatric occupational therapist by their family physician or a resource center.

When occupational therapists meet a new patient, they assess their abilities and consider how their limitations might affect their quality of life. Following these assessments, occupational therapists craft a therapy plan to meet your child’s needs.

Occupational therapists look at several aspects of healthy living for children with cerebral palsy, including:

  • Physical and Environmental Aspects
    • Motor skills & motor control
    • Range of motion
    • Flexibility
    • Elasticity
    • Physical development
  • Sensory Aspects
    • Physical awareness
    • Mental awareness
    • Responses to touch
    • Responses to movement
  • Visual Aspects
    • Depth perception
    • Visual clarity
  • Social Aspects
    • Socializing
    • Reasoning
    • Community integration
  • Family Life Aspects
    • Culture
    • Socioeconomics
    • Support systems

How Can Occupational Therapy Help?

Occupational therapy is best suited for people with cerebral palsy who are having difficulty completing tasks or routines due to physical or mental limitations.

Occupational therapy for cerebral palsy can help a person adapt to many common symptoms including:

Regardless of the severity of cerebral palsy, occupational therapy can help improve a person’s quality of life.

For many patients, occupational therapy is a series of simple “life hacks” that help them get  everyday tasks done with greater ease. For other patients, occupational therapy may focus on using assistive technologies and adaptive equipment.

Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

For many patients, occupational therapy leads to independence that their condition was preventing. Children who receive occupational therapy can learn to adapt to their limits early in life, which has lasting benefits.

In the short term, patients learn how to complete basic needs like brushing their teeth, getting dressed and eating. Other exercises can improve control over their body. Children with cerebral palsy who participate in occupational therapy learn how to thrive in their environments.

Over the long term, occupational therapy helps people become productive, happy members of society. It breaks down barriers that would otherwise impair a person’s physical, psychological and emotional health, and helps a person explore different passions and career paths.

Occupational Therapy Techniques and Devices

Occupational therapy includes repetitive exercises, games and other techniques that help develop and reinforce new skills. For example, an occupational therapist may help a child practice drawing, writing or grasping by repeating the activity on a regular basis.

Many parents are surprised to learn that occupational therapy is fun for their children, as they play with a variety of toys, make crafts and play games their therapist. Of course, each of these activities seeks to improve specific skills that will help children overcome challenges in their lives.

Alternatively, adaptive equipment may be used, including splints, braces, or specialized equipment or devices, to help achieve a goal that otherwise isn’t possible. Occupational therapy sessions may be dedicated to learning how to use this equipment effectively.

Adaptive Equipment

Adaptive equipment and technology are rapidly evolving as inventors find new ways to solve cerebral palsy limitations.

A few examples of adaptive equipment that may be used in occupational therapy include:

  • Braces, walkers or canes
  • Writing or typing tools
  • Specialized eating utensils
  • Voice-to-text technology
  • Electronic braille systems
  • Communication boards
  • Bath chairs
  • Sports equipment

Sensory Therapy

Sensory integration therapy is used to improve a child’s ability to understand and interpret signals being sent to their brain. Sensory therapy exposes children to different physical experiences, textures and sensations. Play-Doh, slime, silly putty, liquids, sand and finger paints are all common tools in sensory therapy.

Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy

Children with cerebral palsy may participate in constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT). CIMT attempts to strengthen the weaker part of the body by restraining its stronger counterpart.

It’s very common for children with cerebral palsy to focus their movements on the strong part of their body, which weakens the parts that are already harder to use. CIMT helps reverse the impacts of this unintentional neglect.

Occupational Therapy at Home

Families can support their child’s occupational therapy by helping practice new skills at home. Occupational therapists will make recommendations on how to continue therapy in the home to help guide parents.

Parents may also be able to make changes around the home to support their child’s development. For example, a therapist may recommend switching bedrooms, installing specialized equipment or using adaptive technology at home. Following the advice of a therapist can help increase a child’s success and improve their quality of life.

Financial Compensation for Occupational Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

Occupational therapy for cerebral palsy can be expensive, but many families receive financial compensation to help pay for these costs. If your child has cerebral palsy due to a birth injury, you may be eligible to claim legal compensation to help cover these financial costs.

Work with an attorney experienced in cerebral palsy cases to get the compensation you deserve. Contact Birth Injury Justice Center today at (800) 914-1562 to receive a free medical case review.

Author:Birth Injury Justice Center
Birth Injury Justice Center

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

Last modified: January 26, 2019

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