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Non-Medical Management of Cerebral Palsy:  Therapy, Nutrition, and Assistive Technology

Posted on April 18, 2019 by All In

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This article explains three aspects of non-medical management of cerebral palsy: therapy, nutrition and assistive technology.


Therapy

Therapists are health professionals that are equipped with skills in working with children and teaching parents effective ways to help their children. During therapy, a therapist would assess your child’s abilities and needs, and provide treatment and advice. Your child will learn to acquire skills needed for independent living, while you will learn how to support and encourage your child’s development.

Therapies that may help your child:

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapists are involved in helping with movement and pain. Some of the ways physiotherapists may help your child:

  • Teach you the correct methods of carrying and positioning your child so as to prevent excessive strain on yourself and avoid placing your child in awkward postures
  • Exercises to prevent/reduce muscle tightness and to improve muscle strength
  • Advise and prescribe equipment that will serve the needs of your child like wheelchairs, walking aids (such as walking frames or crutches) and orthotics (such as braces and splints)
  • Facilitate motor development of your child (such as sitting, crawling, walking)

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy is concerned with your child’s daily activities. This includes bathing, feeding, dressing, play, and education. As your child grows older, Occupational therapists (OTs) will help your child become more independent in caring for themselves using assistive devices or by simplifying activities. OTs may help by:

  • Teaching you easier ways of bathing, feeding, and dressing your child
  • Facilitate your child’s development through play and sensory stimulation
  • Suggesting the use of assistive devices for your child to carry out his/her daily activities
  • Teaching your child skills needed to attend school (like handwriting and using scissors).

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy focuses on the assessment and management of speech, communication, feeding and swallowing difficulties. If your child has difficulties with speech and communication, a speech and language pathologist (SLP) will find ways to encourage your child’s speech and language development. Sometimes your child requires an alternative means of communicating (like using hand signals or a communication book), and the SLP will identify the best way for your child to communicate. If your child has issues with eating and drinking, the SLP will help with improving your child’s control of the muscles of the face, mouth, and throat.

Therapeutic Horse Riding and Hippotherapy

Therapeutic horseback riding (THR) and Hippotherapy are horseback riding interventions that could help improve your child’s movement and posture. During THR, a trained riding instructor will teach your child to ride a horse using basic riding skills. In Hippotherapy, a physiotherapist or occupational therapist uses horse movements to improve your child’s motor skills, posture, and balance.

Hippotherapy and THR services can be found at:

You can find more information on therapy from these voluntary welfare organisations:

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Nutrition

Children with CP are at risk of poor nutritional status, especially if children have difficulties swallowing food. It is important for your child to have adequate nutrition for growth and development. It is also equally important that your child does not gain excessive weight that can cause additional problems with movement. A nutritionist, and a speech language pathologist (SLP) may help your child with nutrition and feeding.

As your child grows, his/her nutritional requirements will change. This depends on your child’s physical activity levels. A nutritionist will help determine your child’s nutritional requirements and suggest ways to help your child achieve those requirements.

Your child may find difficulties with chewing and swallowing food. A SLP would conduct assessments to identify if your child requires modifications to his/her meals. The SLP may recommend that your child eat certain textures of food and different thickness of liquids in order to prevent accidental inhalation of food into his/her airway. If your child has severe swallowing difficulties that pose a risk to him/her inhaling her food, a feeding tube may be appropriate. You may discuss this option with your child’s doctors.

 



Assistive Technology

Assistive technology devices are equipment that may help your child become more independent in his/her daily life. Your child’s therapists and other health professionals will assess and recommend devices that cater to your child’s needs. These devices may help improve your child’s posture, mobility, and communication. 

Here are some of the devices that may enable a child with cerebral palsy:

For posture and movement

  • Orthoses (Braces and splints)

Orthoses may be used to improve your child’s posture, and position your child’s limbs in order to facilitate better movement and function. They are usually custom made to fit your child.

  • Customised seating

Your child may require special seats that support his/her head and body to keep him/her stable and comfortable.

  • Walking aids (Crutches, walking frames)

Your therapist may prescribe walking aids to improve your child’s independence in mobility.

  • Wheelchairs

Your therapist may prescribe special wheelchairs to better support your child and allow him/her to be seated in a position that prevents awkward postures.

For vision & hearing problems

  • Eyeglasses

If your child has visual problems, an ophthalmologist or an optometrist may prescribe custom eye glasses to improve your child’s visions.

  • Hearing aids or implants

If your child has auditory difficulties, a doctor may refer him/her to an audiologist to assess and prescribe suitable hearing aids. If your child is found to have severe hearing loss, your doctor may suggest ear implants.

For communication

  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices

These devices can provide an alternative means of communicating if your child has difficulties producing speech. Your child will be able to tap on pictures on the device that produce a voice to indicate what your child is trying to communicate.

How should I get started getting assistive technology for my child with cerebral palsy?

Caregivers of children with cerebral palsy can seek assistance from the Assistive Technology Clinic at Cerebral Palsy Centre.

The professionals in the Assistive Technology Clinic assess children and adults diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and other conditions, prescribe AT equipment and devices, and provide training.

The clinic is open on the last Monday of each month.

Assistive Device Delivery Process at the Assistive Technology Clinic (Cerebral Palsy Centre)

  • Consultation and follow-up sessions at the clinic are free-of-charge for CPAS
  • The team may recommend a purchase following successful trials of prescribed AT equipment / device(s)
  • The cost for AT devices varies according to the type of the equipment prescribed by the team
  • The team will provide the necessary quotations for the prescribed AT equipment / device
  • Families in need of financial support may approach the Social Work Department for assistance
  • Full payment is required before the equipment / device is ordered for both subsidy and non-subsidy cases.
  • Following payment, equipment will usually be delivered in approximately 8-10 weeks.
  • The entire process takes approximately 6 months

More information

For more general information on assistive technology, such as possible options for financial assistance, please see:

An Overview of Assistive Technology


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