Young children are quick to adapt to their limitations. The only downside is, in compensating for a limitation in movement they may also form bad habits. Moving in restricted ways means a child can use some muscles too much, and others not enough. As a result, certain muscles aren’t encouraged to lengthen and stretch as they would in a natural pattern of movement. If not used, the muscles can shorten and this is how contractures can develop.
“I worked with one little girl who kept tripping over in the playground. She was very able, she just needed some extra help to improve her balance.” Lesley Nutton, Physiotherapist.
Tips for holding, lifting and carrying
How you handle, move and position a young child with cerebral palsy can help to control any muscle stiffness or uncontrolled movements. Your physiotherapist, doctor or paediatrician will be able to guide you but here are some general tips:
- Try to keep movements gentle and smooth, give muscles time to tense and relax and respond to changes in position.
- All children need time in different positions, such as on their side, on their tummy as well as on their back.
- Offer reassurance as you move a child so they feel relaxed.
- Swap sides when you cuddle so you help them use muscles on different sides each time.
- Remember to praise the little triumphs as well as the big ones.
Problems with mobility aids
Like a pair of new shoes or glasses it can take time to adjust to a mobility aid such as a standing frame or wheelchair. If you feel your child is only tolerating their equipment it is best to get to the bottom if it. Talk to your physiotherapist or occupational therapist, together you can work out if the equipment is uncomfortable or perhaps too challenging? There may be ways to make it more enjoyable e.g. only standing to eat? Or do maths? Or do artwork? Your therapist will be able to look at your daily activities and find the best way to make it work with your family’s day.
“Sometimes the problem is psychological, some children don’t like using their walker or splints because it makes them feel different. One little boy wouldn’t wear his splints because he said “Superheroes don’t wear them.” When he came to the Centre he saw another little boy wearing them and said, “I’ve got one like that.” Finding local opportunities for your child to see other children wearing or using similar equipment can work wonders.” Lesley Nutton, Physiotherapist