Our expert panel of therapists specialising in cerebral palsy offer some practical tips and advice on various daily activities including mobility, dressing, communication, play, sleep, toilet training and nutrition.
The early years matter
Early therapeutic intervention with young children makes a big difference. Children can learn to move in more efficient ways, using less force and effort so they become less tired and have more energy for fun.
Your local physiotherapist and occupational therapist can show you how to handle and play with your child in a way that encourages and supports good patterns of movement. You can also consider additional different types therapy, perhaps to focus on a specific goal like learning to drink out of a straw, or put socks on in readiness for nursery.
Dressing is a very complicated activity for the body. Balance, co-ordination and focus are all required in unison. Regardless of a child’s particular challenges, with patience and time it’s possible to find ways for them to be actively involved in getting dressed, and not feel like everything is being done to them.
- Morning can be a scramble and everything needs to be done in a hurry, but don’t forget dressing is a skill your child needs. Leave enough time to get your child involved, even if it’s only at weekends.
- Split an activity down into parts. For example, putting on a sock. Help the child to feel stable, you need to weight shift to get a sock on. You could put the sock on the end of one toe and ask them to them practice reaching down to pull the sock on.
- Putting trousers on is much easier if you can stand to pull the trouser up. Even one stand up each week helps to build independence.
- Remember to give lots of praise, not all triumphs need an audience.
- Putting arms in sleeves can be made easier by putting the tighter arm in first and out last. Weight shifting exercises can be incorporated into simple activities like putting on a jumper or coat. A child might put their coat on three times a day and not even realise they are working important muscles.
- Teaching your child to bend their leg before putting on socks and shoes can ease stiffness in the ankle and make it less likely for your child to curl their toes.
- Think about ways you can teach them to be independent. Could you put the trousers on the floor all ready for feet to step into them?
- Stretchy clothes are often easier. Consider elasticated waists and buying clothes one size bigger so there is more give. Many of the big brands now do ranges of clothes and shoes for children with special needs.