The Importance of Intensive Therapy and the Research Behind It

Twenty years ago, strength training in children with cerebral palsy was discouraged, as it was assumed that it would increase spasticity (tight/stiff muscles and the inability to control them). However, this was not supported by the results of earlier studies, which showed that strength training can actually improve lower-limb muscle strength in children with CP, without increasing spasticity.  Current research supports that intermittent bursts of intensive therapy during development is beneficial to children for them to learn and re-learn movements.

Research shows that time and duration of these bursts can vary and be effective from as little as 45 minutes per session up to three hours per session, and can range from two weeks to 16 weeks. Shorter sessions do not allow for body preparation prior to active functional strength and neuromuscular re-education type activities. While typical, traditional therapies ranging from 45-60 minutes, one to two days per week address these issues, an intensive program has shown to build on current skills and takes clients to another level of function toward independence.

In 2001, UCP of Greater Cleveland launched a pilot program titled “Steps to Independence.” This new integrated therapy approach was targeted at muscle strengthening, which is needed to accomplish functional tasks. This program is based on a Polish treatment/physical therapy model. UCP integrated this unique therapy model with a team approach, including both physical and occupational therapists working together. This team approach is designed to look at the body as a whole, developing a unique and individualized program

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Exercise extra important for special needs kids

The Importance of Exercise

We are pleased to present the first in a series of blogs written by the staff of United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland.

The American Physical Therapy Association initiated a branding campaign around the “Move Forward” motto several years ago. Pediatric physical therapists live this mantra, encouraging infants, children and young adults to move their bodies, explore their environment and be part of their communities.

It is well known that physical activity and exercise is beneficial to our bodies, specifically heart and lungs, brain, muscles, bones and joints and the gastrointestinal tract. Like adults, kids need regular exercise. The CDC recommends that children get 60 minutes of physical activity per day, including aerobic, strengthening and bone building, with vigorous activity three times per week. Many activities cover more than one type of exercise, and doing them regularly helps children (and adults):

  • Feel less stressed
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Feel more ready to learn in school
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Build and keep healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • Sleep better at night

Children and adults with disabilities gain the same benefits from regular physical activity. Research studies have found that children with cerebral palsy are significantly less active than their peers, and therefore more at risk for secondary complications like contractures, decreased bone strength, decreased strength for functional skills and dependence on others for care. Many children/young adults receive regular exercise programs during weekly physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) sessions at UCP of Greater Cleveland and are given

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