Therapy plays a CRUCIAL role to improve a cerebral palsy child’s overall quality of life.
There are 13 common (and effective) cerebral palsy therapy activities that you will see and hear about.
What is EVEN better is the therapies can be combined and tailored to a child’s unique needs.
AND be sure to stick around until the end of the post for your BONUS article about specific cerebral palsy activities you can do that are both FUN and engaging. 🙂
Let’s get started.
What is Cerebral Palsy (CP)?
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 and the location of the damage can affect a child’s mobility in the face, arms, hands, torso, and legs by impacting their balance and posture.
A child is usually diagnosed within the first five years of their life and will experience motor delays affecting body movement and coordination.
Unfortunately, at this time CP is not curable. The good news is the condition will not worsen overtime 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.
So without further ado, let’s cover the 13 most common and effective types of therapy that play a vital role in treating children with cerebral palsy.
1. Intensive Physical Therapy
Intensive therapy means INTENSE results!
Many children gain more progress towards their goals in three weeks of intensive therapy than they do in a whole 12 months of ongoing traditional therapy.
Intensive Physical Therapy is an extremely effective form of therapy to improve a child’s gross motor functions because of the ‘intense’ nature of the therapy.
The therapy will last on average 3 hours per day 5 days per week for one to three week periods.
The MAIN goals of intensive therapy are to help a child:
- Gain confidence
- Gain independence
- Improve balance, strength, and coordination
- Hit developmental milestones like walking, crawling, rolling over, sitting up, talking, or chewing
For instance, it is not uncommon for a child to hit a new developmental skill.
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 concept of an ‘intensive’ focuses on training or retraining the brain and body to work and move together through high repetitive movements and exercises.
Intensive programs are tailored to a child’s unique needs and goals.
The program may combine different therapies such as physical, speech, and occupational
==> Click here for the recommended tool amongst therapists to help with a child’s leg posture (which is commonly used during intensive physical therapy sessions). <==
2. Physical Therapy
Similar to ‘Intensive Physical Therapy’ regular ‘Physical Therapy’ (PT) ALSO helps a child’s motor functions.
PT is specific to a child’s unique needs such as learning how to walk or sit up independently.
The main difference between the two types of therapies is regular PT isn’t as long or as ‘intense’ in some exercise movements for the child.
For instance, depending on the child’s state or private health insurance, a regular PT session may be covered only once per week vs. an intensive program will last several hours per day, five days a week, for one to several week increments.
As you can see, there is a BIG difference in how a child’s muscles will respond and work if receiving therapy once per week vs. daily for several hours.
A certified Intensive Physical Therapist once told me a great analogy to understand the difference between the two therapies …
If a child were to learn the letters of the alphabet for an hour per week vs. learning the alphabet several hours per day five days a week, which option would be more effective?
EXACTLY, the child learns the alphabet for several hours everyday.
That IS what intensive therapy does for the child’s muscles.
It works them over and over again for a longer period of time, which improves overall muscle memory, strength, balance, and coordination.
==> The GYMBOX is a tool approved by therapists and parents to enhance a child’s motor functions (click here to learn more). <==
3. 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 focus on helping a child function at their highest level in their normal day to day activities at home, in school, or out in public.
A child will be taught daily activities like how to dress, go to the restroom, brush their teeth, play, and go to school.
The therapist will work on strengthening muscle and joint coordination to perform everyday tasks (like dressing themselves) if a child is challenged in this area.
4. 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.
==> The Liftware Level is a tool to help those who experience mobility issues with their hands and arms eat EASIER (click here to learn more). <==
Swallowing and breathing may be a challenge for some children.
The speech and language therapist will also work on enhancing these functions through mouth exercises.
5. Sensory Tools and Activities
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
- Covering their eyes or ears often
- Picky food aversions
The good news, there are solutions to this problem …
Sensory TOOLS and ACTIVITIES can help ease stress and anxiety while improving mood and focus.
- Finger painting
- Playing with jello
- Read with soft books
- Play with weighted textured balls
- Sensory bins
- Scratch-n-sniff stickers
- Beach ball word and numbers game
- Sensory sound jars
6. 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 will experience being involved in these types of activities is priceless.
Recreational activities are a fun and engaging way to play such as painting, crafts, outdoor activities, swimming, music, gardening, and dance lessons to name a few.
7. Phenol and Alcohol Nerve Blocking
Spasticity is one of the most disabling symptoms in cerebral palsy.
It causes pain and muscle tightness.
Spasticity can be improved through the various physcial therapy activities we are exploring throughout this post including chemical neurolytic agents (phenol and alcohol nerve blocking).
So what does that mean exactly?
Cerebral Palsy Daily Living shares, “Nerve blocking is used as a way of reducing spasticity (muscle tightness) by disrupting/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 activity is easily available but side effects may include skin irritation, nerve damage, or tissue damage.
Also, known as Hydrotherapy, is a type of water-based therapy that can help 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 because the child’s muscles are no longer going against gravity when exercising.
Being in the water helps take the pressure off during exercise movements which can help them relax and move more freely.
9. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) helps heal children who suffer from oxygen deprivation at birth.
HBOT treats the child by putting pure oxygen into their bloodstream while they lie down in a pressurized chamber.
The air pressure increases in the chamber to allow more oxygen into the lungs which helps fight off infection.
This type of therapy will be used to decrease birth injuries when an infant is born and not breathing readily after birth.
10. Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is a GREAT alternative to help the 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’s a great way to improve pain relief for a child as well as enhance their quality of life.
11. Botox Injections
Botox injections are another way to help spasticity (or muscle stiffness).
Specifically, “Botulinum-A Toxin” is a substance made by bacteria that is injected into the muscle areas to treat spasms or tightness.
The benefits linked to 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)
Is therapeutic horse riding that takes place at an outdoor location, arena, or barn.
A child will ride 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.
13. Behavioral Therapy
Commonly referred to as Psychotherapy, this type of therapy will focus on improving social skills, academic problems, and attention issues.
A child may be impacted intellectually or have a mental disorder which can make it difficult for them to respond in social situations.
The behavioral health therapist will focus on the problem areas to help them make a positive progression in their life.
I want to extend my gratitude to thank you for stopping by today (hopefully, this information added value to your research efforts)!
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 you’d like to add that I did not cover, please comment below.
AND if you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share by clicking the sidebar link. 🙂
==> BONUS Article: Here are SPECIFIC cerebral palsy activities you can do that are FUN and engaging! <==
Affiliate Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support and engagement which keeps this website alive!
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 other qualified medical provider about advice, questions, diagnosis, or treatment.