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Cerebral Palsy and OT

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a congenital condition caused by abnormal development of the brain or brain damage from a traumatic birth. It is a permanent, non-progressive condition. What this means is that the initial damage sustained does not get any worse. However, the symptoms such as spasticity, increased muscle tone, can impede a child's overall development. These hindrances can compound overtime causing the child to be behind their peers developmentally.

The condition is a spectrum. No two cases of CP are similar as there are many variables that influence the outcome of the condition. Individuals can have CP related factors isolated to one muscle or joint while another can present with quadriplegia, symptoms affecting all four limbs, and cognitive impairments.

Along with medical interventions such as surgery, botox and physical therapy. Occupational therapy (OT) is vital to a child’s development with CP.

How does OT treat CP? Well for one thing, what is unique about OT is that the goal is not to treat the condition or its symptoms. Although some progress can be made here such as improvements in hand eye coordination, hand dexterity, and range of motion. One effective method OTs might use if a child has an extraordinarily neglected side when compared to the other is Pediatric Constraint Induced Movement Therapy. The dominant limb is constrained forcing the individual to learn to use the non-dominant side. More often though, the goal for OT is to teach the individual with CP how to live with their condition. This is accomplished through simple modifications or adaptations, Such as with button hooks, and reachers for dressing. Suggesting walled suction cup dishes, or thick handled utensils for eating.

The possibilities in which OT can influence an individual with CP are numerous. Some other areas might include.

● Attending school/School based activities

○ Handwriting

○ classroom modifications such as seat placement, classroom arrangement, or transitioning from classroom to classroom

○ play and social interactions such as modifications to achieve successful engagement in recess and P.E.

● Help develop effective routines/schedules

● Address other self care areas such as bathing and teeth brushing


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020b). About social determinants of health (SDOH).

Cerebral Palsy Guide. (2020). Cerebral palsy life expectancy: How long will my child live? Cerebral Palsy Guide.

Geanina, T., & Stefan, T. (2019). Occupational therapy in the complex treatment of clients with cerebral palsy. Journal of Physical Education & Sport, 19, 2322–2327.


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