Cerebral Palsy: An Overview of Treatment Options and Support Services for Children
A variety of treatment options are available for children with cerebral palsy (CP). Although there is no cure, various treatments and therapies can help manage your child’s symptoms and improve skills for activities of daily living. Resources are also available to educate and provide support for you, your child, and family. Access to a combination of services will improve your child’s potential for independence.
CP varies from child to child. Treatment goals and interventions are designed and adjusted based on your child’s changing abilities and needs. Some children progress to living independent adult lives. If their disabilities are appropriately managed, they can go to school, work, and enjoy recreational activities. Other children with CP may need ongoing assistance throughout their lives.
Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly help families deal with the challenges of developmental disabilities. It is important to understand that the treatments you choose must be right for both your child and family. Treatments for children with CP usually require a team of providers who work together with the family.
The team may include:
- Social workers
- Feeding Specialist
- Special education teachers
It is essential that your child’s providers communicate and work together in creating and implementing an individualized treatment plan and goals. Your child may receive treatment in various settings:
- The home
- Outpatient clinic
- Child development center
- Physician’s office
Remember that the family is the central unit of the multidisciplinary team. Rely on your team for advice and support. And do your own research to identify opportunities for your child and family.
Many different types of treatment are available for children with cerebral palsy. They include both nonsurgical and surgical options. The following are the main types of services and treatments available.
Support Services: With the diagnosis of a disability, the child and entire family will face new challenges. It is therefore very important to incorporate support services into the treatment plan. There are many local and national resources to provide coping and supportive services for you, your child, and your family.
- Find a circle of support for your family. Was your child in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)? If so, the follow-up programs often provide tremendous resources and referrals. If the diagnosis of CP is made after hospital discharge, your physician can refer you to the appropriate provider. In California you will be referred for services to Regional Centers or California Children’s Services for support. Searching the web can also lead you to information and parent support groups, community and school organizations, and counseling services. These can help address any grief, guilt, or other feelings around your child’s disability.
- Be an advocate for your child in dealing with all aspects of your child’s healthcare services. The family is the central unit of the medical and therapy team. As the parent or caregiver, you are responsible for the decisions concerning your child and family.
- As your child grows, remember to encourage and foster independence. This will help with your child’s rehabilitation, self-confidence, and future independence.
Therapies There is a wide range of therapies available for children with cerebral palsy. They include physical, occupational, speech and language, and behavioral therapies, as well as a variety of alternative and other therapies.
Medication and Surgery: Medication may help with symptoms such as spasticity or pain. Surgery may help with certain types of soft tissue problems or bony deformities.
Educational Services: Early childhood educators and special education teachers are an integral part of the team. Teachers assess and provide individualized and specialized plans. These address your child’s social, cognitive, communication, and behavioral development. The teachers work closely with the family and other providers to implement appropriate strategies or make modifications in the daycare or classroom.