Little Champions may benefit from a wide range of treatment and therapies to assist them in reaching their full potential.
Your child’s paediatric team will be able to advise you on what is best for your child, but a summary of some of the treatments and therapies available are below and include:
- hydrotherapy or aquatic physiotherapy
- occupational therapy
- speech & language therapy
- conductive education
- orthopaedic surgery
- Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR)
Physiotherapy can be hugely beneficial to Little Champions with mobility difficulties such as cerebral palsy. It can improve motor development, ease stiffness, aid postural alignment and prevent the development of contractures.
Physiotherapists give manual therapy to affected muscles using their hands, but also teach physical exercises that stretch and strengthen muscles. Physiotherapists also offer advice on using and caring for aids and orthoses, such as special arm and leg braces that help to stretch muscles.
Your child should have access to physiotherapy through their healthcare team or through their school. Alternatively, you can find a chartered physiotherapist near you by using the search function on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website: csp.org.uk/public-patient/find-physiotherapist
Hydrotherapy or aquatic physiotherapy
Hydrotherapy is a specific type of treatment conducted by trained therapists for people with mobility challenges which takes place in warm swimming pools or specialist hydrotherapy pools.
Weightlessness in the water enables people to enjoy a range of motion that they may struggle with on land. Movement in the water can improve balance and postural control and increase core strength. The warmth of the water can also help to ease muscles and reduce pain.
Hydrotherapy pools are available on the NHS and most hospitals have access to hydrotherapy pools. Any member of your child’s healthcare team can refer you to an NHS physiotherapist for hydrotherapy.
You can find a chartered physiotherapist specialising in hydrotherapy by using the search function on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website: csp.org.uk/public-patient/find-physiotherapist/physio2u
Occupational therapists can provide practical help and advice on carrying out everyday tasks. For instance, an occupational therapist can assess your home and advise on adaptations or specialist equipment that will make it easier for your Little Champion to use the shower, get in or out of bed or go to the toilet.
Occupational therapists can also advise on better ways to carry out self-care tasks such as eating, brushing teeth or getting dressed. At school or in the community, they can advise on sitting at desks, using private or public transport and computers. They can also help your Little Champion to access their interests, hobbies and activities.
The Royal College of Occupational Therapists website provides useful information on finding an Occupational Therapist and has an online directory: rcotss-ip.org.uk/find
Speech and language therapy
Some Little Champions may benefit from speech and language therapy if their condition affects the muscles in their neck, face, or mouth, or if they struggle to understand and interpret speech and language. Assessments usually take place as soon as a language or speech delay is suspected.
A trained speech and language therapist can help a child to overcome:
- coordinating and controlling speech muscles
- difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- reduced ability or an inability to form sounds and words
- difficulty with speech and comprehension
- the effects of a hearing impairment
The treatment your Little Champion will receive will depend on their specific needs as they grow and develop.
Conductive Education is a unique form of rehabilitation that helps Little Champions with neurological movement disorders overcome their physical challenges with the aim of becoming less reliant on aids.
Conductive Education is based on the concept that everyone has the potential to learn and develop irrespective of their starting point. It approaches the rehabilitation of people with motor disabilities from an educational perspective rather than a medical perspective, focusing on the link between the mind and body and the importance of developing the motivation and confidence to achieve physical goals.
Conductive Education is available through NICE, a UK registered charity dedicated to providing services and training in the field of Conductive Education: conductive-education.org.uk
Sometimes Little Champions who have mobility difficulties such as cerebral palsy can be at risk of developing problems with their muscles and bones. These may require monitoring by an orthopaedic doctor throughout a child’s life, particularly until they are fully grown. The orthopaedic surgeons with whom we work often recommend review every six months.
Orthopaedic surgery is used to correct conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves). Because of the risks associated with surgery and because its benefits may only be temporary, courses of physiotherapy and medication are usually recommended first. Surgery may be able to realign fixed joints and tendons; prevent contractures (permanently tightened muscles); correct hip dislocation and treat scoliosis (spinal curvature).
If you have concerns about your child’s musculoskeletal system, speak to your child’s paediatrician or orthopaedic team.
Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy
Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) is a surgical procedure that could help Little Champions who have spastic cerebral palsy. Specifically, it can help children with spasticity in their lower limbs that makes walking and sitting difficult.
SDR involves surgery to cut carefully selected sensory nerves inside the spine of the lower back to ease muscle stiffness, performed under general anaesthetic. Following surgery regular physiotherapy is necessary to obtain the best results from SDR. Like all surgery, SDR carries specific risks and your child’s treatment team will be best placed to advise whether SDR is right for your child.
Find out more about these treatments in our guide to cerebral palsy here