Types of Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

Children with cerebral palsy have different needs. Some children  have problems with motor skills and spasticity, but generally pick up things pretty quickly. Others have a full range of problems from motor skills to respiratory and esophageal problems. Since so many children with cerebral palsy have an array of different medical needs, there isn’t one certain therapy that can help each and every child. Fortunately, there are a number of different therapeutic treatments to choose from, ranging from holistic care, water therapy, and more.


While generally not embraced in Western Medicine, acupuncture has been used for centuries by Asian countries and is seen as a medicinal art. Some families with children who have cerebral palsy take their children to an acupuncturist to try and relieve the common pain associated with the disorder.

Other children find relief in acupuncture for painful birth injuries such as spina bifida, Erb’s palsy, and brain damage. An acupuncturist uses needles to relieve pain, often instead of medication.


Aquatherapy is one of the most popular and beneficials form of therapy for children with cerebral palsy, as they suffer from limb maladiess, but this may also be beneficial to children who suffer from Erb’s palsy and are trying to regain movement in their arm.

Under the supervision of a trained, professional therapist, children can benefit from the strength training and exercise afforded by the anti-gravity nature of a pool. In this soothing environment, a child can have a respite from some of the pain that comes with the disability (sometimes cerebral palsy causes stress on the musculoskeletal frame just by gravity and body weight), and they can still work through the natural restorative and detoxifying nature of water.

Behavioral Therapy (Psychotherapy)

Some birth injuries involve an intellectual disability that affects how they children social situations. Other children may have had physical limitations that included them being house-bound for a long time, causing them to lack in social skills or cues.

Behavioral therapy –also known as psychotherapy- allows patients to work through problems they may have in their social and mental health with a behavioral health specialist.

Chiropractic Intervention and Massage Therapy

Children with cerebral palsy might benefit from chiropractic intervention and massage therapy for a few different reasons. Some children have had a lot of stress on their musculoskeletal system, requiring chiropractic intervention for basic spinal alignment and health.

Another reason that a patient may require chiropractic therapy or massage therapy is for the basic purpose of lengthening and stretching muscles. When muscles relax as they do through these kinds of therapies, they are more likely to be strong and healthy which is required if they’re going to properly learn how to walk. This form of therapy is not generally recommended for children suffering from spina bifida as the raw exposed nerves could be accidentally mishandled, causing more problems.

Conductive Education

Some children with neurological or mobility impairment found in any brain-related birth injury need help performing actions that everyday people learn through daily practice, learning, and experience. Because these children don’t often have the same kinds of experiences that non-disabled people have, conductive education is a form of special education that serves as a kind of study group for life.

Conductive education provides opportunities of every day learning experiences so that children can have the same overall education that non-disabled people do.


Using equine movement and relationships with horses, children with all kinds of birth injuries can learn basic occupational and speech therapy. Hippotherapy isn’t therapeutic horseback riding, but instead a trained professional introduces the child to the horse and uses the horse to access the child in ways that were previously thought of as unconventional.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Typically short-term therapy and often only experienced once or twice,Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a method of fast-healing for any children who have suffered oxygen deprivation (anoxic, hypoxic, HIE, birth asphyxia, and perinatal asphyxia).

If an infant is delivered and doesn’t breathe for the next immediate minutes, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a great way to introduce a lot of oxygen into the blood stream preventing or lessening the severity of birth injuries such as cerebral palsy.

Occupational Therapy

 Occupational therapy’s main goal is to work on developing balance, strength, and gait. An occupational therapist might refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to work on loosening and strengthening muscles, where after the occupational therapist can assign casts and orthopedic devices that also help to strengthen and shape muscles. These methods are to help patients learn to walk, and also to create strength and control to prevent spasticity.

The occupational therapist also trains patients to work on decision-making, abstract reasoning, problem-solving, perception, memory, sequencing, and more.

Play Therapy

Using play with a variety of different toys in different public locations, children with all forms of birth injuries can enjoy themselves. Often children with birth injuries can sense that they’re different or that they have health problems and end up worrying about their problems more than having fun.

While they’re having fun in play therapy, they can learn about how to interact with other kids, learn about themselves, and to build self-confidence.

Physiotherapy and Physical Therapy

Physiotherapy and physical therapy both work on rehabilitation of muscle groups. This is extremely important for children with shoulder dystocia, Erb’s palsy, Klumpke’s palsy, or Brachial Plexus palsy, and, in fact, children suffering from these birth injuries will not regain use of their arm or hand without physical and physiotherapy. Through this kind of therapy, therapists strive to get the optimal movement out of their patients through a variety of different challenges and exercises.

This is often like occupational therapy, though the focus is primarily on what the muscle groups are doing, and not on so many different focuses as with occupational therapy. A physical therapist is often like a personal trainer at a gym, training, cheering, and challenging.

Respiratory, Digestive, and Dietician Therapy

Some children with cerebral palsy experience respiration and esophageal problems. Consequently, they may issues with breathing, eating, and drinking, which dovetails into digestive and dietician therapies, addressing what foods and drinks should be consumed. Respiratory therapy may primarily address breathing exercises to strengthen and optimize lung development, but will also address these other concerns.

Speech and Language Therapy

Speech and language therapy can be very important for children with cerebral palsy and other forms of brain-related birth injury. 1 out of every 4 patients with cerebral palsy don’t have the ability to talk. Speech and language therapy helps them to work on exercises that progress the learning of language and get children closer to communicating effectively.

Some speech and language therapists use apps to help patients understand the function of language within people, and these apps also provide communication boards with pre-formed answers so that children can get in the habit of replying with certain answers before they think about attempting to verbalize these answers.

Vocational Counseling

With many different kinds of therapists, some children may be confused or threatened by visiting so many people –or, worse, by having so many people invade their home. One way of approaching therapy is by having a vocational counselor, one person who can master several different types of therapy.

As vocational counselors may not have the same depth in all of these subjects as one therapist would have regarding one subject, this may be a great first step for therapy with your child. By having your child adjust to only one person interacting in their life, they are more likely to focus on the subjects at hand.

Later, when more challenges and more depth is required, your child may have more confidence in different areas (and with some social skills from associating with this vocational counselor) and may be able to handle other therapists better.

Yoga Therapy

Usually prescribed under the direction of an occupational or physical therapist, yoga therapy is a great option for children whose muscles need to be loosened or lengthened. Children with cerebral palsy suffer from particularly tight muscles, so yoga therapy helps them to work on stretching and on making the muscles more limb. This kind of therapy might be incorporated to other kinds of therapy, and it may also be assigned as “homework” to children with cerebral palsy for optimum flexibility and, ultimately, optimum independence.