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Understanding your child’s development and behaviors can be challenging and overwhelming. With many different opinions and suggestions on what your child should or shouldn’t be doing can be stressful and confusing. Although, having the proper resources and education is important to improve your knowledge on ways to help your child develop to the best of their ability and Kids in Motion/Ivy Rehab for Kids is here to help.
- Understand the diagnosis and causes of Cerebral Palsy
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
- Learn appropriate treatment interventions for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and postural control. Cerebral Palsy is the most common disorder in children (CDC, 2018).
There are four primary types of Cerebral Palsy:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy: This is the most common type of Cerebral Palsy and is characterized by hypertonia, or increased muscle tone and tight muscles (Gutierrez Cortes, 2019). There are three types of Spastic Cerebral Palsy, which include:
- Spastic Diplegia/Diparesis: Characterized by muscle stiffness typically in the legs with arms less affected or not affected at all. Difficulty walking is common with this type of CP (CDC, 2018).
- Spastic Hemiplegia/Hemiparesis: This type of Cerebral Palsy affects only one side of the individual’s body and usually the arm is affected more than the leg (CDC, 2018).
- Spastic Quadriplegia/Quadriparesis: This is the most severe form of CP, which affects all four limbs, the trunk and facial muscles (CDC, 2018).
- Athetoid Cerebral Palsy: Athetoid Cerebral Palsy is also known as Dyskinetic or Dystonic Cerebral Palsy and is characterized by uncontrollable movements. Common symptoms include: difficulty holding head upright, difficulties with eating and swallowing and jerky movements in the upper and/or lower extremities (Gutierrez Cortes, 2019).
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: Ataxic Cerebral Palsy is the least common type of CP, affecting 5-10% of the percent of CP patients. The most common symptoms of Ataxic Cerebral Palsy include: difficulty coordinating voluntary movements, problems with postural control and balance and difficulties with cognitive and/or language skills (Gutierrez Cortes, 2019).
- Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy: Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy is characterized by loose/floppy (over relaxed) muscles and is a more rare form of CP than the Spastic type (Brain and Spinal Cord, 2019).
- Mixed Cerebral Palsy: Mixed Cerebral Palsy represents patients with more than one type of CP. The most common type of Mixed Cerebral Palsy is Spastic-Athetoid Cerebral Palsy (CDC, 2018).
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a neuromuscular disorder caused by damage to the motor cortex of the developing brain that affects motor functioning, including an individual’s ability to move, grasp objects and speak (Gutierrez Cortes, 2019).
What are Signs/Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?
Signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy can vary. Movement and coordination problems associated with CP may include:
- Variation in muscle tone
- Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (Spasticity)
- Stiff muscles with normal reflexes (Rigidity)
- Lack of muscle coordination (Ataxia)
- Slow, writhing movements (Athetosis)
- Tremors or involuntary movements
- Delays in reaching motor milestones, including pushing up on arms, sitting up alone or crawling
- Favoring one side of the body, such as reaching with only one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
- Difficulty walking, including symptoms such as walking on toes or having a wide or asymmetrical gait
- Excessive drooling or problems with feeding, eating or swallowing
- Delays in speech development
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as picking up a crayon or spoon
- Seizures (Mayo Clinic, 2016)
Brain abnormalities associated with CP may also contribute to other neurological problems, including: intellectual disabilities, urinary incontinence and abnormal touch or pain perceptions (Mayo Clinic, 2016).
How is Cerebral Palsy treated?
Treatment for CP can assist with the following areas: managing pain symptoms, improving joint flexibility, increasing mobility, improving muscle tone, managing secondary symptoms and allowing for greater functional independence. There are multiple therapy options to address symptoms of Cerebral Palsy, including:
- Physical Therapy: addresses mobility and coordination skills
- Occupational Therapy: addresses daily living skills including skills related to dressing, feeding/eating and fine motor skills
- Speech therapy: addresses language and social interaction skills
There are also a variety of medications and surgical options available to address symptoms of your child’s Cerebral Palsy (Gutierrez Cortes, 2019).
What Can I do to Help Treat my Child’s Cerebral Palsy?
With guidance from your child’s medical team, which can include professionals such as: Pediatricians, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists and Neurologists, your child can achieve gross motor, fine motor and social skills successfully (Gutierrez Cortes, 2019). It is important to follow the home exercise program provided by your child’s therapist to increase carryover of your child’s skills that are gained in therapy. Home exercise programs can range from stretches from your Physical Therapist, fine motor coordination activities from your Occupational Therapist and speech and language activities from your Speech Therapist.
Kids in Motion Pediatric Therapy clinic provides services in all areas from speech, occupational, and physical therapy to address the signs/symptoms stated above related to Cerebral Palsy.
Speech therapy will help improve your child’s communication skills by learning verbal and/or nonverbal skills. A speech therapist will engage your child in a variety of auditory and verbal stimuli such as story books, picture cards, interactive games, actual objects, etc. using different approaches and techniques to improve language skills. A speech therapist can also teach the use of an augmentative communication devices, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), and American Sign Language. These devices and techniques can improve communication by using pictures and symbols to ask and answer questions when interacting with others.
Occupational therapy will use creative therapeutic activities to increase independence and success in ADL, fine motor, visual motor, and sensory processing skills. Occupational therapist will introduce innovative methods to improve self-dressing, self-hygiene and self-feeding skills. Your child will engage in client centered activities to increase strength and coordination/control in hands and upper extremities to complete age appropriate fine motor and visual motor skills with greater success. Occupational therapist will demonstrate and educate family on variety of sensory diet strategies specific for your child’s needs to improve regulation to perform optimally in everyday activities.
Physical therapy will help improve your child’s strength, coordination, and balance through therapeutic exercise and activities to increase success in age appropriate gross motor skills. Child will also engage in tasks such as obstacle courses incorporating variety of gym equipment to improve motor planning skills. Physical therapist may target gait retraining if toe-walking is present by working on your child’s range of motion, strengthening and incorporating different sensory techniques. Consultation with an orthotist can also be provided if needed.
Still have questions and concerns?
We are committed to helping children of all abilities achieve and live their full potential. With experienced and compassionate Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists and four locations to serve you, we feel confident that you will be more than satisfied with the care and support your child receives.
Check out our free Interactive Online Screener – once completed, it will respond with ideas to help your child in the areas you specify they might be having trouble with or contact us at 248-684-9610.
Cerebral Palsy (2016). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-
Gutierrez Cortes, N. (2019). Cerebral Palsy-What is Cerebral Palsy? Cerebral Palsy
Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy (2019). Brain and Spinal Cord.
What is Cerebral Palsy? (2018). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Image Credit: (2016):