Has your child been diagnosed with cerebral palsy?
Or have you read about the symptoms and suspect they may have it?
If so, it’s understandable to be worried and even a bit frightened.
However, there is hope.
Here at Little Feet Therapy, one of the pediatric therapy specialties we offer is treatment for cerebral palsy.
If your child has cerebral palsy, or you suspect they do, pediatric physical therapy and occupational therapy can help them manage their condition, becoming more self sufficient.
Keep reading to find out how.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that can affect the development of muscle movement, coordination and posture.
In some cases, cerebral palsy can also cause seizures and affect hearing, vision, speech, and other senses. It’s fairly uncommon, with the CDC estimating at 1 in 345 American children has it.
Some medical emergencies that can lead to cerebral palsy are strokes, loss of oxygen, head trauma, infections, etc.
Cerebral palsy is not a progressive disorder, which means it doesn’t tend to get worse over time. However, as your child grows, their activities of daily living may become more difficult without intervention.
Types Of Cerebral Palsy
There are different types of cerebral palsy, depending on the areas of the body it’s affecting.
The types of cerebral palsy are:
- Spastic cerebral palsy
- Ataxic cerebral palsy
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
- Mixed cerebral palsy
- Hypotonic cerebral palsy
There’s currently no known cure for cerebral palsy, but there are many ways to manage this condition, such as physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Let’s take a closer look at each type of cerebral palsy.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic cerebral palsy is not very common and is mainly characterized by having coordination issues and difficulty learning new movements.
Children with this type of cerebral palsy, often experience voluntary muscle movements that look clumsy or disorganized, since they have issues with balance.
Therefore, learning to walk and performing common daily tasks like holding objects or writing, can be quite a challenge for children with this condition.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is mainly characterized by unstable posture due to changes in muscle tone and movement.
Children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy have a hard time controlling their bodiesand experience involuntary rapid movements in their legs, arms and hands.
However, other parts of the body such as their tongue and face can sometimes be affected, so children with this type of cerebral palsy may find it difficult to swallow or talk.
Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy
Hypotonic cerebral palsyis mainly characterized by diminished muscle tone. Children with this type of cerebral palsy have limbs that move very easily and look overly relaxed, and floppy.
Children with this type of cerebral palsy may have issues breathing or holding their head.As they get older, sitting up straight, speaking and walking can become a struggle.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic cerebral palsy is by far the most common type of cerebral palsy, making up around 80% of cases.
It’s mainly characterized by stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes, such as making scissor like movements while walking, so children with this type of cerebral palsy may have a hard time learning to walk.
Other issues caused by spastic cerebral palsy include muscle weakness, paralysis and muscle spasms that usually happen with fastmovements.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy
Mixed cerebral palsy is a combination of symptoms from other types of cerebral palsy.
In most cases, children with this type of cerebral palsy have a combination of symptoms from spastic cerebral palsy and dyskinetic cerebral palsy.
Levels Of Cerebral Palsy
There are also levels of cerebral palsy according to the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS), and this is used to determine the physical capabilities of children with this condition.
There are five levels, which are as follows:
Level 1 Cerebral Palsy
Children with level 1 cerebral palsy are usually able to walk with no limitations.
Level 2 Cerebral Palsy
Children with level 2 cerebral palsy can usually walk without limitations, but they are unable to run or jump.
Level 3 Cerebral Palsy
Children with level 3 cerebral palsy can sit with little support and standwithout any support. They will likely have difficulty walking.
Level 4 Cerebral Palsy
Children with level 4 cerebral palsy can only walk with the use of assistive devices, like a wheelchair.
Leve l5 Cerebral Palsy
Children with level 5 cerebral palsyneed support to keep theirhead and neck position, in order to sit and stand.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
The most common known cause of cerebral palsy is a brain injury.
Such injuries usually happen before birth, or during the first couple of years of your child’s life. In particular, it’s an injury to the part of your child’s brain that control movement and coordination of their muscles.
Other causes may include:
- Gene mutations
- Asphyxia neonatorum (lack of oxygen to the brain during labour)
- Maternal infection
- Severe jaundice
- Intracranial hemorrhage
In most cases, however, cerebral palsy is idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown.
How To Tell If Your Child Has Cerebral Palsy
The first line of action to determine if your child has cerebral palsy is a medical examination.However, there are signs to look for if you suspect something is wrong.
The most common signs of cerebral palsy are:
- Delays in reaching some common milestones, such as sitting up or crawling
- Muscle tone changes, such as limbs being too floppy or too stiff
- Delays in speech development
- Spasticity, or exaggerated reflexes
- Muscle coordination issues
- Involuntary movements
- Problems with swallowing
- Having trouble learning to walk
- Intellectual disabilities
It’s important to keep in mind that symptoms of cerebral palsy usually show up before a child is 3 or 4 years old and that they can either be mild or severe, as this condition is not the same for every child.
Also, most children with cerebral palsy are already born with this condition and symptoms can change overtime, they can become more severe or less severe depending on the type of brain injury.
How Can Pediatric Physical Therapy For Cerebral Palsy Help?
A child with special needs will need all the support possible to be able to navigate the world, and physical therapists, along with parents, are part of this support system.
Your pediatric physical therapistcan assess your child’s specific needs and create a personalized plan, in order to provide your child with the best care possible.
The focus of this plan is usually to help your child gain strength and movement, which includes teaching you and any other caregivers in your child’s life how to feed, play with, calm, and position them.
Physical therapists may also recommend changing your home environment, so your child can continue achieving milestones in a more comfortable and playful way.
Sometimes medical procedures can be invasive or uncomfortable for children, so a pediatric physical therapist will help you and your child to learn healthy routines at home.
Interacting with your child in a familiar environment can improve your child’s hearing, communication, and vision.
In particular, pediatric physical therapy treatments for cerebral palsy may include:
- Pediatric physical therapy for developmental delays
- Pediatric physical therapy for gross motor coordination
- Pediatric physical therapy for mobility (ie crawling or walking)
- Pediatric physical therapy for balance
- Education on transfers and adapting your home environment
- Fitting for braces, wheelchairs, or other medical equipment
How Can Pediatric Occupational Therapy For Cerebral Palsy Help?
Pediatric occupational therapy focuses on helping children with cerebral palsy to develop the ability to perform everyday tasks at home, school and work.
This kind of therapy is just as important as physical therapy, because it provides children with the opportunity to take care of themselves and be more independent.
Other areas occupational therapy can help develop are problem solving skills, memory, perception, reasoning, the ability and willingness to adapt to new environments, etc.
Some of the everyday tasks occupational therapists focus on developing are:
- Brushing teeth
- Using a computer
- Using a telephone
- Interacting with family and caregivers
- Using assistive technologies
- Navigating public spaces
- Interacting with teachers, aides and peers
- Completing homework
An occupational therapist will assess your child and test their physical and emotional abilities, since every child and every case of cerebral palsy is unique.
Some of the abilities occupational therapists may assess are:
- Muscle and hand-eye coordination
- Range of motion
- Developmental issues
- Visual issues
- Auditory ability
- Body awareness
- Tactile response
- Memory sequencing
- Ability to relate to others
- Capacity for reason
- Propensity to set goals
- Home environment
- Socio-economic status
- Cultural practices
After the assessment, the occupational therapist will design a personalized plan, in which different techniques and even technology, if necessary, will be used to teach your child how to complete tasks and activities successfully.
The therapist will also make sure your child understands what the tasks are and why they are important, since a desire to perform and work hard is vital for your child’s development.
Pediatric occupational therapy treatments for cerebral palsy may also include:
- Pediatric occupational therapy for handwriting skills
- Pediatric occupational therapy for self care skills
- Pediatric occupational therapy for social skills development
- Pediatric occupational therapy for developmental delays
This is what occupational therapy will also teach your child about:
- Coping skills
- Recall and memory
- Problem solving
- Planning skills
- Understanding cause and effect
Children with cerebral palsycan greatly benefit from occupational therapy, because it provides them with the tools to handle everyday life despite having a disability.
Also, as children with this condition grow up, they tend to want more freedom in their life so they can participate socially with other people without any assistance.
The main goal of occupational therapy is to teach children that most daily tasks can be achieved by having a routine that also includes their usual physical therapy and standard medical care.
If your child has already been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, or you suspect they may have it, we can help.
We can answer any questions you have, and put together a treatment plan for your child.
Book your appointment with Little Feet Pediatric Therapy today.