Here are 15 of the most common and effective cerebral palsy therapy activities that play a vital role in treating kids with Cerebral Palsy (CP).

Therapy plays a crucial role to improve a child’s overall quality of life!

What’s even better is different therapies and activities can be combined tailored to a child’s needs for maximum results.

Let’s get started. 

Be sure to access your bonus resource at the end of this post. 🙂

CUEVAS MEDEK EXERCISE THERAPY


Cuevas Medek Exercise Therapy (also known as CME or MEDEK) is an intensive physical therapy session.

Many kids gain more progress towards their goals in 3 weeks of intensive therapy versus 12 months of traditional therapy.

Intense therapy means intense results.

CME is an extremely effective form of therapy to improve a child’s motor functions based on the ‘intense’ nature of the therapy.

The therapy lasts on average 3 hours per day 5 days per week for one to three week periods.

The Goals of Intensive Therapy lucky-little-lenny-2

An intensive focuses on helping a child:

  • Gain confidence
  • Gain independence
  • Improve balance, strength, and coordination
  • Hit developmental milestones like walking, crawling, rolling over, sitting up, talking, or chewing

It is not uncommon for a child to hit a new developmental skill during an intensive.

For instance, a child who uses a walker may gain the strength and balance they need to advance into using crutches.

From my personal experience managing The LENN Foundation, a little girl we assisted took her FIRST independent steps using her AFO’s (Ankle Foot Orthosis) on day TWO of her intensive session.

The results can be astounding.

The Focus of Intensive Therapy

An intensive session focuses on training or retraining the brain and body to work in accordance through high repetitive movements and exercises.

The programs focus on:

►► Click here for a tool to help a child’s leg posture recommended by CME therapists ◄◄

PHYSICAL THERAPY


Similar to “Cuevas Medek Exercise Therapy” regular “Physical Therapy” (PT) also helps a child’s motor functions.

PT is specific to a child’s unique needs like learning to walk.

cerebral-palsy-child

The main difference between the two types of therapies is regular PT isn’t as long or as ‘intense’ in some exercise movements as an intensive PT session.

For instance, a physical therapy session may happen only one time per week or once a month.

Versus an intensive program will last several hours per day, five days a week, for one to three-week increments.

As you can see, there is a BIG difference in how a child’s muscles will respond if receiving therapy once per week versus daily.

A certified intensive specialist once shared this with me…

If a child learned the letters of the alphabet once per week versus learning it five days a week, which option would be more effective?

Exactly, the child who learns the alphabet five days a week.

That IS what intensive therapy does.

It works your muscles repetitiously for a longer period of time, to improve overall muscle memory, strength, balance, and coordination.

►► Click here for an engaging tool to enhance a child’s motor functions ◄◄

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY


Activities of Daily Living (ADL) is exactly what occupational therapy (OT) focuses on.

OT teaches a child to live an independent lifestyle.

Occupational therapists help a child function at their highest level in their day-to-day activities at home, in school, or out in public.

ADL functions a child may be taught…

  • How to dress
  • Go to the restroom
  • Brush teeth
  • Play
  • Go to school

The goal is to help with independence, productivity, and self-care.

The therapist works on strengthening muscle and joint coordination to perform everyday tasks (like getting dressed) if a child is challenged in this area.

SPEECH AND LANGUAGE THERAPY


When a child needs help effectively communicating their thoughts and feelings that’s when a speech and language therapist will step in.

With the therapist, the child focuses on their speech or talking to pronounce words, sounds, numbers, and gestures.

This type of therapy improves the functioning and muscles in the mouth to the throat area.

►►If you are worried about your toddler’s language development or have a family history of late talkers, language-learning disorders, or need prevention tips (click here!) ◄◄

FEEDING THERAPY


Swallowing or eating may be a challenge for some children.

If this is the case, a trained occupational or speech therapist steps in.

They help a kid learn how to eat or to drink OR do it better.

The therapist will enhance these functions through several approaches:

  • Oral motor skills (to improve your response to the movement of the muscles in your face).
  • Behavioral (implementing a reward system like a sticker when a child tries a new food).
  • Sensory (develop a play-based approach where the child tolerates and interacts with a new food before eating it).

The feeding therapist also works closely with the patient and their families to determine the root cause of a child’s eating challenges.

feeding-therapy

SENSORY TOOLS


Some children may experience sensory issues in relation to their brain injury.

For instance, if a child hears a loud noise or is in a crowded environment, they may become nervous, anxious, or feel overwhelmed.

Common sensory challenges a child may display:

  • An unusual low or high pain threshold
  • Clumsiness
  • Covering their eyes or ears often
  • Picky food aversions

The good news, there are solutions to this problem through sensory tools.

Here are several ideas for easing a child’s stress and anxiety to improve and focus.

 lucky-little-lenny-1
Lenny during a therapy session holding a tactile sensory ball

Infant focused sensory activities:

Kid focused sensory activities:

  • Sensory bins
  • scratch-n-sniff stickers
  • Beach ball word and numbers game
  • Sensory sound jars

Helpful tools to manage sensory input:

RECREATIONAL THERAPY


Recreational activities are a wonderful way to improve a child’s overall health and well-being (mentally, physically, and emotionally).

The feeling of confidence and independence a child experiences being involved in these types of activities is priceless.

Recreational activities are an engaging way to play such as painting, crafts, outdoor activities, swimming, music, gardening, and dance lessons to name a few.

AQUATHERAPY


Also, known as Hydrotherapy, is a type of water-based therapy that helps a child’s range of motion.

It’s a safe and effective way to decrease pain due to the buoyancy of being in the water.

The child’s muscles are no longer working against gravity when swimming or exercising in a pool.

Being in the water helps take the pressure off the muscles to relax and move more freely.

aqua-therapy

HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY


Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) helps a child who suffers from oxygen deprivation at birth.

HBOT treatments are when pure oxygen goes into the bloodstream while laying down in a pressurized chamber.

The air pressure increases in the chamber to allow more oxygen into the lungs to help fight infection.

This type of therapy is used to decrease birth injuries when an infant is born and not breathing readily after birth.

MASSAGE THERAPY


Massage therapy an alternative treatment method to help muscles function and strengthen by stimulating the brain receptors.

The direct pressure from the massage increases blood flow to the tissues which encourages new tissue growth and healing.

It is a great way to improve pain relief in kids with cerebral palsy as well as enhance their overall quality of life.

INJECTIONS


Botox Injections

Botox injections are another way to help spasticity (or muscle stiffness).

Specifically, “Botulinum-A Toxin” is a substance made by bacteria.

The shot is injected into the muscle areas to treat spasms or tightness.

It works by blocking the chemical signal between the nerves and muscles that make the muscle contract or tighten.

You should notice an effect within 2 weeks lasting on average 3 to 4 months.

botox-injections
Image and study results by Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego

The benefits of botox injections include:

  • Less muscle pain or stiffness
  • Better range of motion
  • Improved gait pattern
  • Easier to stretch
  • Able to tolerate wearing braces
  • Possible delay in surgery
  • Able to gain confidence and independence in upper extremities (like the arms and hands)

Phenol and Alcohol Nerve Blocking Injections

Spasticity is one of the most disabling symptoms in cerebral palsy.

It causes pain and muscle tightness.

Spasticity can be improved through various physical therapy activities including chemical neurolytic agents like phenol and alcohol nerve blocking.

So what does that mean?

Cerebral Palsy Daily Living shares, “Nerve blocking is used as a way of reducing spasticity (muscle tightness) by disrupting and blocking the overactive nerve signal from the brain to the muscles.

The nerve block involves dissolving the fatty coating or myelin sheath wrapped around the nerve, while the nerve itself remains intact.

This approach requires more precision than the use of botox since specific nerves are being targeted rather than the larger muscles themselves.”

This type of therapy is easily available.

The side effects may include skin irritation, nerve damage, or tissue damage.

HIPPOTHERAPY


Hippotherapy is therapeutic horse riding.

The therapy sessions take place at an outdoor location, arena, or barn.

A child rides a horse to improve their mobility in the hip and pelvic areas to increase flexibility, balance, and posture.

Hippotherapy combines elements of occupational, physical, and speech-language therapies to engage the child’s cognitive and sensory systems.

BEHAVIORAL THERAPY


Commonly referred to as Psychotherapy, this type of therapy focuses on improving:

A child may be impacted intellectually or have a mental disorder.

If this is the case, it can be difficult to respond to social situations.

The behavioral health therapist will focus on the problem areas to help the child make a positive progression in their life.

ADAPTIVE EQUIPMENT (To Perform Daily Activities)


Adaptive equipment is designed to help a child with muscle strength issues.

These devices help with walking, standing, sitting, eating, or playing.

Common adaptive devices used to help kids with cerebral palsy may include:adaptive-bicycle

  • Wheelchairs
  • Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO)
  • Adaptive Bicycle
  • Standing Equipment
  • Adaptive feeding utensils
  • Adaptive writing utensils
  • Bath chairs
  • Feeding chairs
  • Gait trainer
  • Walker

Not only does this type of equipment improve a child’s quality of life, but technology also provides a number of benefits as well.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY (To Communicate)


Assistive technology devices help a child in numerous ways:

  • Perform in school
  • Engage socially
  • Express emotions
  • Become self-sufficient
  • Enhance self-confidence

Even though the complications and symptoms vary drastically from child to child, the common thing that affects most is mobility limitations to communicate freely.

With that said, these assistive technology tools ease communication barriers:

  • Electronic communication boards
  • Speech devices
  • Eye-tracking devices
  • Typing and writing devices
  • Hearing Aid

COMMON QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS


What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that happens from brain damage in an infant either before or shortly after birth.

The brain damage can range from mild to severe.lucky-little-lenny

The location of where the damage occurred affects the child with their mobility (like their balance or coordination) in one or multiple areas like the:

  • Face
  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Torso
  • Legs

When is a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy?

Usually, within the first five years, a child is diagnosed.

They will experience motor delays affecting body movement and coordination.

Is cerebral palsy curable?

Unfortunately, at this time CP is not curable.

The good news is the condition will not worsen over time but can GREATLY improve with early intervention and therapy.

The main goal of therapy is to strengthen and teach the muscles to move in accordance with the brain activity.

How does Health Insurance cover Intensive Physical Therapy?

Your health insurance (private or state) controls the number of therapy sessions your child is “covered” or allowed to receive for physical, occupational, or speech therapy each year.

Once the number of sessions has been maxed out each month or annually, therapy is no longer covered.

When it comes to health insurance coverage for CME therapy, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Health insurance either covers a portion or none at all.
  • Most of the time, intensive therapy is an uncovered service so families have to pay all or some of the cost out-of-pocket.
  • On average, CME sessions cost a family out-of-pocket anywhere between $2,000 to $8,000 per child (for a one to three-week intensive program).

Where can my child go for CME Therapy or Intensive Physical Therapy?

Here are my TOP recommended intensive facilities I’ve had the pleasure of personally working with to help kids with neurologic impairments or motor delays:

THANK YOU!


I want to wrap up by extending my gratitude to thank you for stopping by today!

Has your child or someone you know received one or more of the therapies mentioned above? 

If so, I’d love to hear your feedback.

If you have questions or anything to add that I did not cover, please comment below.

If you found value in this information, please click the sidebar link to share with someone else. 🙂

==> BONUS Resource: 7 Engaging and FUN ways to improve skills <==

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Note: Intensive Therapy for Kids is strictly an information website.  We do not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  This content is not intended to override health care advice from a professional.  Always talk to your physician or another qualified medical provider about advice, questions, diagnosis, or treatment.