Treatment of Cerebral Palsy: Play Therapy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy

Play Therapy

Play therapy can have different meanings and focuses depending on the needs of the child. For children without disabilities it most often refers to a type of behavior modification that is used to improve emotional and social development; reduce aggression; improve cooperation with others; assist a child in processing a traumatic event or prepare for an upcoming event such as surgery.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy

"Play permits the child to resolve in symbolic form unsolved problems of the past and to cope directly or symbolically with present concerns. It is also his most significant tool for preparing himself for the future and its tasks." Bruno Bettelheim "

For children with Cerebral Palsy, play therapy has the added aspect of developing physical skills.
Play is an essential activity for all children. This is where real learning begins. In the home setting one of the most important things you can do for you child’s development is just putting them on the floor. A child’s earliest independence comes from exploring the world, using whatever mobility he or she has, from a position where he or she is free to do so. Putting a child on the floor, even if they have limited mobility, at least provides the opportunity for exploration. Time spent lying on the floor with a few toys around will be a valuable opportunity to exercise early self-help in play and mobility. Because some children with cerebral palsy are more limited in their physical ability, it may not be easy for them to engage in spontaneous play, so give your child any assistance they may need to help them enjoy playing. Obviously, not all toys will be suitable for all children, as cerebral palsy varies so greatly, from a very mild disability to total immobility. Here are some guidelines to help in toy selection:

1. Multi-sensory appeal
Does the toy respond with lights, sounds, or movement to engage the child? Are there contrasting colors? Does it have a scent? Is there texture?

 2. Method of activation
Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? What is the force required to activate? What are the number and complexity of steps required to activate?

 3. Places the toy will be used
Will the toy be easy to store? Is there space in the home? Can the toy be used in a variety of positions such as side-lying or on a wheelchair tray?

4. Opportunities for success
Can play be open-ended with no definite right or wrong way? Is it adaptable to the child's individual style, ability, and pace?

5. Current popularity
Is it a toy that will help the child with disabilities feel like "any other kid?" Does it tie in with other activities like books and art sets that promote other forms of play?

6. Self-expression
Does the toy allow for creativity, uniqueness, and making choices? Will it give the child experience with a variety of media?

7. Adjustability
Does it have adjustable height, sound volume, speed, and level of difficulty?

8. Child's individual abilities
Does the toy provide activities that reflect both developmental and chronological ages? Does it reflect the child's interests and age?

9. Safety and Durability

Does the toy fit with the child's size and strength? Does it have moisture resistance? Is the toy and its parts sized appropriately? Can it be washed and cleaned?

10. Potential for interaction
Will the child be an active participant during use? Will the toy encourage social engagement with others?

Always be sure that the child’s toys are accessible to him or her and that he or she has some way of letting you know what she wants to play with. As they get older, and depending on the severity of their disability, they will be able to indicate which toy they’d like in a clear and certain way. You must ensure, however, that they don’t miss out on the early opportunity to make choices in the area of play. As early as possible you should devise a system through which your child can communicate to you their preferences. This may be through speech or signs, or as they get older through picture boards or electronic devices.

No matter how old your child is, playing is a most valuable area of their therapy. It not only helps to release stress, it can also aid their development, and in some cases speed it up. Play also induces laughter, which we all know is the best medicine. Playing also increases hand-eye coordination, can aid in developing fine motor skills, and as they get older, can aid in developing their gross motor skills, such as playing with balls, tee ball or other backyard athletics.

Oftentimes, parents of children with special needs can easily get caught in a trap of thinking they must always control their child’s positioning and activities, but all children must have the chance to learn from experience. If you are offering a lot of stimulation to your child, there has to be an opportunity for them to show you what they have learned (input and output) by being allowed to roam free occasionally. Putting your child on the floor and letting them play and explore will give them a chance to not only learn more, but to show you what they have learned already.

Though it may not always be practical or feasible, involving peers can greatly increase the opportunity for success in improving physical skills if the child is resistant to the suggestions by adults. It has the added benefit of the other children getting a better understanding of their friend which will  spill over into other environments such as school. The following link tells a story which illustrates how powerful this can be.

Activities that seem like play to a child often have an ulterior motive. For instance, games involving “spotting the difference”, or pointing out which part of a picture or drawing does not belong, help the child’s neurological development. Obstacle courses, ball games, playing in the sand and even make believe not only help the child’s mental development, but also their motor skills, balance and coordination. As these areas of development are generally more difficult for children with cerebral palsy, frequent play is a fun and easy way for a child to practice trouble zones, and they won’t even know that they’re undergoing therapy at home! This is an area where friends and family can be fully involved in the therapy of your child’s development.

When a child is receiving play therapy, ask the therapist about positioning your child for play and what appropriate adapted equipment, such as wedges, rolls, bean bag chairs, and Tumble Form equipment, may be used. Show these ideas to teachers and other caregivers.

The therapist may make recommendations such as the ones that follow so that the child can get the most benefit from reinforcement of what the therapist is working on during their sessions with the child.

Make certain your child changes positions frequently. Children should play on the floor as well as in a chair.
Position your child with both arms forward when playing with toys. If you are guiding the child's hands, make certain that the child can see what is happening..
Talk to your child at the child's eye level.
Give your child ample time to respond to what you say.
Maintain a good balance between noisy, active play and quieter, less strenuous activities.
Present toys that encourage your child to reach and grasp with the hand that is more difficult to use, but allow the child to use whichever hand he chooses.
When helping your child put on clothing, put the more affected arm or leg into the clothing first. Move slowly, never forcing movements.
When walking with your child, take the more affected hand.
Encourage two-handed activities such as rolling clay or throwing a large ball, but do not insist that the child use both hands.
Children with physical difficulty need to get stimulation from as many sources as possible; provide toys that have interesting things to see, hear and feel.
Research on play therapy, both qualitative and quantitative has shown that it is highly effective in many cases. As Mary Poppins said,

"In ev'ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game"

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Treatment of Cerebral Palsy: Counseling, Music Therapy, Occupational Therapy,
Physical Therapy, Pharmeceuticals, Play Therapy, Speech Therapy and Surgery.