Cerebral Palsy and Occupational Therapy

Occupational TherapyOccupational therapy encourages rehabilitation by emphasizing activities of daily life.  Trained occupational therapists and therapy assistants use everyday tasks (occupations) as therapeutic tools, reinforcing patients’ abilities and helping them develop vital skills. Occupational therapy is crucial in the treatment program for a cerebral palsy patient. Occupational therapists are here to enhance the child’s ability to perform daily tasks and objectives that not only enhance the overall quality of life, but increase the happiness of individuals.

Through various activities and exercises – each centered on performing functional tasks; OT rehabilitates injury and reinforces independence.

Occupational therapy assists patients with physical and cognitive disorders, resulting in greater well-being and higher quality of life.  OT can be an effective intervention for cerebral palsy patients.

Occupational Therapy Benefits

Cerebral palsy presents physical and cognitive challenges, which can interfere with a patient’s ability to perform everyday activities.  Occupational therapy targets these limitations, enabling patients to fully participate in daily life and achieve individual goals.

OT helps children of all ages, suffering from cerebral palsy.  The therapy addresses motor issues common to the disorder, but occupational therapists are also concerned with sensory and cognitive abilities.

When cognitive development is impaired, occupational therapy supports practical planning, helping CP patients follow daily routines.  Children with motor impairment benefit from various OT techniques designed to increase function and mitigate individual limitations.  Occupational therapy is also recommended to improve a child’s sensory understanding, helping cerebral palsy patients process and interpret sensory input.

Occupational therapy supports healthy development and assists children with CP in various settings.  From an early age, pediatric occupational therapy contributes to positive play and learning.  And OT helps children engage socially and participate at school.  As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, occupational therapy can help children with CP:

  • Create simple step routines easily digestible for children with CP
  • Maintain manageable daily routines
  • Participate in leisure activities
  • Work and play independently
  • Understand sensory input
  • Gain confidence
  • Compensate for limitations
  • Develop problem-solving skills
  • Form a sense of identity
  • Learn to adapt to personal abilities
  • Creating learning methods a child can learn to complete daily tasks
  • Freely interact with others
  • Enhancing enjoyment, happiness, and independence
  • Creating a sense of importance and need in society

When is Occupational Therapy Needed?

Occupational therapy is recommended for children with cerebral palsy when children need aid when performing daily activities and tasks. Since each cerebral palsy case is unique, medical professionals perform a series of tests and assessments which are outlined below:

  • Motor skills testing – Testing to see if one can control movements with limbs such as arms, feet, and proper coordination of the whole body.
  • Cognitive functioning – Testing cerebral activities that encircle reasoning, memory, attention, language, attainment of information and much more.
  • Developmental skills testing – Testing to determine the level of developmental cognitive skill of children with cerebral palsy.

Occupational Therapy Process

Occupational therapy is an integral part of the treatment and improvement process for all functions that enhance the quality of life for children with cerebral palsy. Therapists pay close attention and begin to target areas of opportunity to improve living opportunities for individuals with cerebral palsy. Therapists pay close attention to the following:

  • Auditory (Sensory) – Engaging in repetitive exercises that improve feelings such as touch and other bodily sensations more definite.
    • Physical awareness and mental awareness
    • Correct response to movement and touch
  • Optic (Visual) – Work to improve techniques such as learning to read, write, draw, and use simple childhood tools.
    • Clarity
    • Perception of depth
    • Dimensional perception
  • Environmental (Physical) – Games and techniques to improve physical functions to improve the quality of life for those with cerebral palsy.
    • Developmental improvement
    • Range of motion
    • Flexibility
    • Elasticity
  • Social (Integration) – Social games and techniques to improve one’s integration with society, improving communication skills with others.
    • Integration with others
    • Social skills
    • Reasoning skills

Occupational Therapy Tools

Various tools and equipment help therapists maximize the benefits of occupational therapy.  Tools include everyday items, as well as specialized medical devices:

  • Games assisting cognitive development
  • Toys enhancing motor function
  • Braces and splints
  • Adaptive instruments – pencils, scissors, etc.
  • Household objects

Parents and Caregivers

A cerebral palsy diagnosis can be challenging for families responsible for the care and comfort of a child with CP.  Parents faced with CP demands share the benefits of occupational therapy programs, playing vital roles crafting and implementing OT treatment plans.  One of the goals of therapy is increasing a child’s independence and participation in self-care, in order to alleviate pressure on caregivers.

Occupational therapy eases caregiver stress and stimulates a sense of well-being within families facing cerebral palsy.  As a child’s quality of life improves, parents and caregivers may experience similar boosts.

Occupational Therapy Expectations and Outcomes

Occupational therapy is multi-faceted, so each patient undergoes comprehensive evaluation, before treatment is recommended.  To ensure the needs of each patient are met, occupational therapists follow this three stage sequence:

  1. Each patient receives thorough evaluation, including consultation with parents and caregivers. By identifying the needs of each child; therapists are able to guide therapy for maximum benefit.
  2. An individualized therapy plan is undertaken, striving to assist with daily activities and help patients achieve personal goals.
  3. Outcomes are evaluated, using feedback to adjust OT intervention and reinforce successful treatment.

Occupational therapists work with parents to identify each child’s strengths and limitations.  The disorder is highly individualized, so OT treatment plans vary widely, according to the symptoms and severity experienced by each patient.

Occupational therapy aims to improve the following:

  • An easier way for individuals to complete tasks and routines.
  • Helping individuals learning how to complete responsibilities and tasks.
  • Improving overall integration into society including, school, community, and natural habitat.

Occupational therapists may also be concerned with attitude and temperament, including a child’s ability to relate to others.  In addition to the child’s state of mind and capacity to reason and set goals, occupational therapists also assess external factors influencing quality of life, such as:

  • Environment at school and home
  • Family matters – size, composition, etc.
  • Cultural practices
  • Location and socio-economic conditions

Occupational Therapy Techniques to Improve Quality of Life

Occupational therapy aims to improve the overall quality of life for those with cerebral palsy. Therapists seek to improve conditions throughout your home, school, work and community. Some major improvements help maintain a routine which can be very hard for individuals with a developmental disability.

 Household

Being able to maintain and manage daily tasks at home are crucial to the support of children or individuals with cerebral palsy. Some focus areas for therapists include:

  • Eating
  • Personal Grooming
  • Brushing your own teeth
  • Bathing yourself
  • Following daily routines
  • Improved self reliance

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