Cerebral palsy is a wide term used to describe non-progressive brain pathology caused by injury to the brain during the foetal, at-birth, or postnatal period that results in activity and functional limitations. Depending on the severity of the condition, it can be associated with learning difficulties, seizures, speech and communication impairment, and problems with swallowing. If one side of the body is affected, it is called hemiplegia; if both legs are affected, it is referred to as diplegia; and if both arms and legs are involved, it is known as quadriplegia.
Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the management of children with cerebral palsy. It helps by improving their:
Joint working will take place with your NHS therapists as well as the members of the multi-disciplinary medical team. Feedback will be provided to the neurologists to assist them in decision making with regards to titrating medications such as baclofen and benzhexol, which are prescribed for relaxing tight muscles and managing spasms and movement disorders. These medications need to be meticulously titrated for them to be maximally effective.
Depending on the severity of cerebral palsy, children are monitored for their hip position and back posture by an orthopaedic surgeon. A detailed report will be provided to them which will contribute towards assessment for any surgical intervention. Joint working will also take place with the social services’ occupational therapist regarding home adaptations and the installation, moving, and handling of adaptive equipment. To summarise, work will be done towards improving your child’s functioning in the environment, which in turn will significantly improve their quality of life.
You can help by making sure that the treatment programme and advice are adhered to and, wherever possible, integrated into your child’s daily routine. This will help to maximise the effect of the treatment and with achieving set goals. Encourage your child to participate in activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, and environmental transfers, as this will make their muscles work and help with motor learning. Ensure that educational staff are fully aware of your child’s needs and their role in contributing towards your child’s progress.
It varies from child to child, and depends on the type and severity of cerebral palsy. The aim will always be to make your child as independent as possible.