Occupational Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder resulting from brain malformation or injury during a child’s brain development. The disease ranges from mild to severe and may necessitate various medical therapies to improve the patient’s independence and quality of life.

Occupational therapy, in particular with cerebral palsy patients, focuses on developing cognitive skills, fine motor skills, sensory processing deficits and other skill sets required for successful independent living. When cerebral palsy causes physical and cognitive impairment, patients must develop coping mechanisms to promote healthy and normal functions including eating, bathing and dressing. Occupational therapy helps patients and families manage the daily activities required for the various elements of independent living.

The Goals and Tasks of Occupational Therapy for Cerebral Palsy Patients

Trained and licensed occupational therapists guide occupational therapy sessions and focus on the patient’s ability to perform regular living rituals. The patient’s and therapist’s ultimate goal is achieving the highest possible level of physical function in work, school, home and other public environments. Therapists teach patients through adaptive processes and focusing on four central goals.

  • When training children and older patients to navigate daily life events, occupational therapists attempt to give their patients adaptable frameworks and processes that may be broadly applied many situations and appropriately adapted. With this method, therapists successfully teach patients to complete tasks while giving them means of solving new dilemmas in the future.
  • During therapy sessions, the patient’s therapist will break down large or difficult tasks into more manageable or modified steps. Patients learn to tackle essential and daily tasks with similar step-by-step approaches, and as they approach adolescence and adulthood, the patient will take a more prominent role in managing the implementation of these breakdown strategies.
  • Because therapists work with patients from childhood through adulthood, they must be sensitive to children’s need for validation, independence, and rewards. Using praise or accomplishment-based award systems often serves to engage younger patients to commit more actively to exercises and therapy best practices.
  • Occupational therapists aid children with cerebral palsy develop self-awareness in addition to situational awareness. Through occupational therapy, patients learn the skills necessary to actively participate in a community, work, school, family and public events, which contributes to the patient’s sense of place within their overall community.

The Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Cerebral Palsy Patients and Their Caregivers

Occupational therapy carries far-reaching effects on the patient and the patient’s family and caregivers. These courses of treatment focus exclusively on aiding patients develop the skills necessary to live and care for their disorder independently. Patients with cerebral palsy are often disproportionately dependent on their caregivers for basic tasks, but as children age, they naturally wish to take greater responsibility for their general care. Occupational therapy enables patients with cerebral palsy to respond actively to their needs, maintain employment, develop relationships and achieve economic security. Children learn to adapt to their unique abilities and develop critical problem-solving skills so they might face new challenges with flexible frameworks that lead to effective personal solutions. Additionally, patients internalize and employ coping mechanisms to deal positively and constructively with the challenges and emotional strain of navigating their disorder.

Caregivers Also Benefit from Occupational Therapy Gains Made by a Cerebral Palsy Patient

 Through occupational therapy, parents and caregivers of cerebral palsy patients experience a number of positive outcomes as the patients are better able to function independently. After the patient acquires and retains necessary life skills, parents and caregivers typically see reduced stress because of the patients increased level of security and ability to care for their condition alone. Emotionally, parents and caregivers can allow for less dependence on the part of the patient and decreased worry over the patient’s well-being and quality of life. Caregivers and patients should seek medical referrals when pursuing and securing an occupational therapist.

 

Resources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14763715

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16391455

 

 

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