When we think about the most common medical conditions in children, we focus on asthma, allergies, and ear infections. But despite our best efforts to build a world to raise independent children, many kids still struggle with mobility and self-sufficient living issues. This is particularly true for children who have cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects the body’s movements and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to the brain that usually happens during pregnancy, during childbirth, or in the first few years of your baby’s life. While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are therapies and exercise programs for children with Cerebral palsy that can help kids learn how to live their best lives possible.
How Are Exercise Programs for Children with Cerebral palsy Important?
As with many aspects of life, the best exercise programs for children with Cerebral palsy depend on the individual child and their abilities. The exercises can help in four critical ways:
- Physical advantages are that children with cerebral palsy may experience better balance and coordination, increased flexibility, and decreased overall pain.
- Cognitive improvements can include better attention span and improved memory.
- Emotional benefits include increased self-esteem and better socialization.
- Behavioral improvements may include enhanced communication skills and an increased understanding of turn-taking.
Exercises and Therapies for Children with Cerebral palsy
In robot-assisted exercises, a robot is connected to the patient through a harness to maintain balance and safety to perform specific therapeutic exercises without the fear of falling. At the same time, the robot relays data on the patient’s gait and posture via Bluetooth to a tablet computer. Real-time visual feedback and remote monitoring allow doctors and therapists to adjust treatment plans following the child’s condition.
Occupational therapy for children with cerebral palsy aims to help them be as independent as possible in all areas of their lives. Occupational therapists use a variety of activities to help children with cerebral palsy develop skills and improve their daily living abilities. These might include:
- Sensory Integration: For example, your child might play with a ball or another object to improve tactile sensation, visual perception, and body movement.
- Feeding and Dressing: Your child might practice feeding herself or dressing herself by wearing a shirt or shoes.
- Delicate Motor Tasks: Your child might be involved in activities that help strengthen small muscles and improve control of movements, such as playing with clay, learning how to use scissors, or grasping toys with fingers.
- Gross Motor Tasks: Activities that improve strength and balance are used to help your child learn how to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand and walk.
- Play Skills: Occupational therapists use playtime to help children learn social interaction and communication skills.
Among all the exercise programs for children with Cerebral palsy, adaptive sports are an enjoyable way for children with cerebral palsy to improve their motor skills while interacting with other kids. They provide a fun, casual setting that can help boost self-esteem and confidence.
Adaptive sports may introduce a child to new activities they can continue as they grow older. These sports options may be modified to fit the child’s abilities, and special equipment or assistance may be needed. Some children will play in teams, while others may need one-on-one instructions.
Below are some of the most commonly played adaptive sports for children with cerebral palsy:
Speech and Language Therapy
Speech and language therapy is the primary treatment for children with cerebral palsy who have problems with communication. It can help improve your child’s ability to understand what people say, express themselves, use their voice, and eat and drink. Speech and language therapy can also help your child if they have a problem with movement in their mouth, making it hard for them to speak clearly or swallow safely.
Vibration therapy is a new exercise modality that has been used to treat children with Cerebral palsy. The therapy consists of standing on a vibrating platform for a prescribed period and frequency. The vibration can be produced by linear oscillation or vertical oscillation. Vibration therapy can provide significant benefits to these children as it helps to improve their strength and tone their muscles so that they can perform tasks like walking correctly and for more extended periods.
Vibration therapy for Children with cerebral palsy can help:
- Strengthen their bones and muscles
- Increase their balance and coordination
- Improve blood flow and circulation
- Improve muscle tone
- Improve endurance
Guidelines for Exercise Programs for Children with Cerebral palsy
Here are two essential guidelines for exercise programs for children with Cerebral palsy:
- Choose an activity that your child enjoys. This will make it more likely that they will stick with the program. If you are unsure what your child enjoys, try several different activities until you find one that works. You might alternate between taking a walk, swimming laps in a pool, or riding a bicycle using different routes each day.
- Work on exercises that target areas of weakness specific to your child. For example, if your child has problems walking because he cannot bend his knees properly, work on stretching and strengthening the quadriceps muscles in the front of his thigh.
Essential Aspects to Focus on in Activity Programs
- Progressive: Building on the child’s current abilities to increase their success rate and motivation. This can be done by starting at a level below their current abilities, providing more support, or breaking down a skill into simpler components.
- Practical: Addressing skills that are useful in everyday life; for example, getting up from the floor, transferring from bed to wheelchair, walking in corridors, etc.
- Positive: Focusing on what the child can do rather than what they cannot do; celebrating success and minor improvements rather than dwelling on failures or limitations.
Exercise can help children with Cerebral palsy stay healthy, feel better, and keep active while also providing a decent workout. It is still important to choose the proper regimen. Personal trainers can help you figure out an appropriate plan of exercise, or doctors can provide advice on programs designed specifically for people with physical disabilities. Either way, there is no better time than the present to get started working on your child’s exercise goals.