Potential New Therapy Option for Children with Cerebral Palsy

The medical field is constantly looking not only for a cure for Cerebral Palsy for new and innovative therapies and treatment options to help children cope with the challenges and limitations that Cerebral Palsy can create. Despite the lack of a cure, some therapies and surgical procedures show promise of being able to prevent a child with Cerebral Palsy from losing what functionality they may have (and, in some cases, improving functionality that does exist). A new therapy developed by assistant professor Dr. Sandra Saavedra, University of Hartford, may be the next step in treating children with Cerebral Palsy.

Targeted Training Therapy and Benefits to Children with Cerebral Palsy

The new therapy is called “targeted training” and aims to help children develop better control over their spine and its various segments. It is believed that in so doing a child with Cerebral Palsy can improve his or her ability to sit without assistance and may see an improvement in his or her ability to move independently. The therapy begins by determining what amount of control the child has over his or her trunk muscles: the child is held by his or her shoulders to see what amount of control the child has over his or her head. Then, the child is held by his or her chest to see what control, if any, the child has over his or her upper body. The examination proceeds down the child’s spine until Dr. Saavedra knows what areas of the trunk and spine the child is able to control.

The child is then fitted with a medical device that assists the child with his or her posture. In therapy sessions as well as in at-home exercises supervised by the parents, the child is taught to control certain parts of his or her trunk. In one case, a child saw improvement in his ability to sit independently after 18 months of targeted treatment. Although one might be tempted to think that a therapy method ought to be able to produce more results than this, the improvement observed in this one case is quite remarkable given that at the outset of therapy the child could not sit up on his own at all.

Obtaining Normalcy in a Child’s Life Through Treatment and Therapy

Children with Cerebral Palsy can learn as they grow older that they are not like other children: They are often not able to play the same games as other children or engage in the same activities. This realization can lead children with Cerebral Palsy to experience depression or low self-esteem, which in turn can negatively impact the child’s willingness to continue participating in therapy and treatment (as well as the outcomes the child experiences from such therapy and treatment). When a child is able to participate in activities in which other children are participating (such as sitting on the floor and playing with toys), the child’s self-esteem and willingness to participate in additional therapy increase.

Dr. Saavedra’s experimental targeted training therapy is not yet approved for use in either England (where studies into the therapy’s effectiveness are ongoing) or in the United States. Additional clinical studies will need to be completed in order to determine how effective targeted training is and what children with Cerebral Palsy are likely to experience the greatest benefits from such therapy. Dr. Saavedra’s targeted training therapy is just one of several new therapies and procedures that are being developed to help children with Cerebral Palsy better cope with the limitations imposed by their conditions.

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