Occupational therapy is a critical part of any cerebral palsy treatment program. The goal of occupational therapy is to promote a patient’s ability to perform daily activities in a way that will enhance quality of life and increase independent living skills.
During an occupational therapy session, the therapist will guide the patient in adapting, compensating for their limitations, and achieving maximum function levels. Therapists take into account physical functioning abilities, cognitive functioning levels (reasoning and processing skills), emotional needs and desires, and the patient’s willingness to adapt and compensate. The existing home environment and support system play a crucial role as well.
Occupational therapy focuses on specific tasks, such as feeding, dressing, toileting, grooming, and transfers. Occupational therapy also should focus on the upper body. The goal is for the patient to function as independently as possible with or without the use of adaptive equipment. To accomplish this, therapists focus on:
- Determining adaptive methods a patient can learn to complete tasks
- Breaking down essential tasks into smaller steps that are often modified
- Developing in a patient a sense of place in his or her environment, school, home, and community
- Capitalizing on the need for accomplishment, pride, enjoyment, and independence
Intensive Occupational Therapy
Patients who can follow directions and have spasticity of certain muscles in the wrist, forearm, or muscles that control the thumb may benefit from intensive therapy. Activity-based interventions such as modified constraint-induced movement therapy (mCIMT) and bimanual intensive rehabilitation training (IRP) can improve the patient’s ability to use the impaired upper limb(s) and improve performance in personal care. One study found that more benefits were seen from intensive treatment than in the standard treatment; in mCIMT, grasp improved, and in IRP, spontaneous use in bimanual play and activities of daily living in younger children increased.
Children with cerebral palsy benefit from therapy because it teaches them how to develop and maintain a daily routine, which contributes to independence and quality of life. As children grow, they want to handle tasks to the best of their abilities without interference. Occupational therapy also enables children to respond to life’s demands, setting the stage for relationship development, self-care and educational and employment pursuits.
The Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Patients with Cerebral Palsy
The benefits of occupational therapy for children with cerebral palsy include:
- Coping with challenges and emotions
- Developing a workable routine
- Adapting to abilities, not limitations
- Pursue interests, hobbies, activities
- Interacting with others
- Being part of a community
- Performing tasks independently
- Responding to the demands of everyday life
- Perceiving the importance of tasks
- Developing critical thinking skills
- Learning to adapt and compensate
Occupational Therapy, Adaptive Equipment and Assistive Technologies
Children with severe cerebral palsy can also benefit from occupational therapy, primarily through the use of specialized adaptive equipment and assistive technologies. In these circumstances, an occupational therapist will modify and then teach children how to use specialized equipment, including:
- Desks that rotate
- Computers with pre-programmed language (if they are unable to speak)
- Equipment to navigate transfers from a laying to seated position
- Custom carpentry to meet special needs
- Computerized environmental control systems
- Specialized chairs that help maintain proper position for eating and breathing
Video: The Importance of Therapy for Children with Cerebral Palsy
Legal Help for Victims of Medical Malpractice with Cerebral Palsy | Detroit, Michigan Birth Injury Attorneys
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