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The Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

The Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

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Guest post by Janet Miller of Birth Injury Guide

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects around 800,000 people. Around 20 percent of cerebral palsy diagnoses are related to brain damage that happens before, during, or just after birth. This brain damage causes motor deficiencies and paralysis. People commonly recognize cerebral palsy by the telltale signs of spastic movements, poor muscle coordination, loose or stiff muscles, and favoring one side of the body.

There is no known cure for cerebral palsy, but there are multiple options for treating the symptoms and improving productivity and independence of those with the disorder. One of the best treatment options is occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy is an important aspect of helping patients with various physical or mental disorders. Occupational therapy includes therapeutic use of day-to-day activities. The goal is to promote a higher quality of life by:

  • Evaluating the patient to determine his or her needs and goals
  • Customizing an intervention plan designed to improve performance of daily activities
  • Evaluating whether goals are being met
  • Making changes to the plan as the patients needs change

In children, the goal of occupational therapy is to increase social skills, performance in school, and independence with daily activities. In adults, occupational therapy is helpful in recovering from an injury or illness, overcoming physical limitations, and managing cognitive changes.

Occupational therapy has many benefits for individuals with cerebral palsy. It is especially helpful if started during childhood. Occupational therapy addresses common motor disorders, but also addresses cognitive and sensory abilities. The culmination is therapy that helps individuals with cerebral palsy plan, follow daily routines, mitigate limitations, and interpret/process sensory input.

Altogether, occupational therapy addresses the following areas:

  • Auditory
  • Optic
  • Environment
  • Socialization

Occupational therapy can be started as early as a diagnosis of cerebral palsy is made. When used in conjunction with other treatments and therapies, occupational therapy can help individuals:

  • Participate in activities
  • Work independently
  • Play independently
  • Understand and process sensory input
  • Compensate for deficits or limitations
  • Develop a sense of personal identity
  • Create a plan that allows completion of daily goals or activities
  • Interact freely with other people
  • Enhance quality of life, including happiness, independence, and community skills

As you can see, occupational therapy is a multifaceted treatment for cerebral palsy that addresses a variety of skills, abilities, and senses. It is a form of therapy that can easily be tailored to the needs of the individual. This is especially important when working with children. Occupational therapy for children can include daily activities as simple as playtime, potty training, walking, or self-feeding. As children age, therapy encourages greater independence and self-motivation.

Because individuals with cerebral palsy often require assistive aids like braces, or a wheelchair, occupational therapy can help train the individual in how to manage and care for their devices. In these cases, therapy includes proper techniques to safely move around, stand or sit, transition, or care for the equipment.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects a lot of people, but it does not affect everyone the same way. That is one reason why occupational therapy is a great part of a comprehensive treatment plan. In many ways, occupational therapy is a support for the daily activities that most of us take for granted. It is a culmination of physical therapy, medical interventions, and mental or emotional support.

While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, individuals who have a solid treatment plan in place can live happy, healthy, and independent lifestyles.

Janet Miller is a regular contributor to Birth Injury Guide, where she covers topics including birth injuries, Cerebral Palsy, Brachial Plexus injuries, and defective infant products. 

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