Toolkit: Encouraging Development through Daily Activities in a Child with Cerebral Palsy

Many treatment options are available for children with cerebral palsy (CP). However, an ongoing home program is very important in promoting your child’s development. Try some of these strategies and techniques in your daily activities. They can encourage movement, sensory stimulation, vision development, play, and self-esteem.

Positioning

Work with your therapists to assess and develop a proper positioning program for your child. This will help your child engage in play and daily activities with greater ease. You and your therapist may need to adapt the car seat, high chair, or stroller to fit your child properly. Or, your child may need to incorporate some stretching into the day with the help of positioning, equipment, or orthotics. Remember to promote strength and flexibility of the trunk, arms, and legs.

Mealtime

During mealtimes, you can help encourage communication, sensory play with food, eye contact and social interaction, self-feeding skills, and postural control. Proper positioning with breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, and sitting in a high chair will promote better postural control and improved skills during feeding. A high chair may be adapted with the use of foam, towels, or other materials to create a good sitting posture for your child. Does your child resist specific jaw control or feeding techniques? If so, try feeding your child before family mealtime. Then let him or her be with the family and practice feeding or socializing during the family meal without the focus on chewing and swallowing.

Diaper changes

You can also facilitate vision, communication, and sensory development during diaper changes. For example, bring your child’s hands to his feet, position your child on the changing table to encourage use of the less favored side, and sing to your child. These strategies all improve development. For some children and parents, doing some gentle hip range of motion can be included during diaper changing.

Bathtime

This is a great opportunity for play and relaxation. The warm water can create a relaxing environment for your child’s body and tight muscles. It may allow your child to have greater movement and tolerance for sensory stimulation, such as touch with bubbles, a wet washcloth, and sponge toys. If comfortable, the parent or other children can bathe with the child with CP to encourage motion and social interaction.

Toys

Your family does not need to buy expensive toys to promote development. Simple household objects often work. You want to look for toys that are easy to manipulate and are stimulating. Find toys with different colors, shapes, textures, and smells. To encourage your child to move and put things in and out of a container, you can use a kitchen colander or any big pot. Place colorful objects that make noise against the colander or pot as the child puts them in and pulls them out.

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