Studies have shown that chiropractic care in conjunction with conventional medical treatment can lessen pain and enhance levels of functioning for some patients with musculoskeletal injuries or painful conditions. But could it useful for individuals with special needs?
A quick search of the internet will turn up numerous claims about how chiropractic is a beneficial treatment from everything from ASD to sensory integration disorders to multiple sclerosis to cerebral palsy. The problem lies in the fact that most of these claims are made on the websites of chiropractors and frequently without resources to back them up. That said, some scientists believe that chiropractic shows promise and that more research is needed on the effects of chiropractic treatment on patients with various disabilities. Here is what we know now:
In a 2018 study, there were similar findings. In conclusion, study writers said, “these findings suggest that SM (spinal manipulation) may, in the short term, help to reduce spasticity in participants with CP. Long-term effects of SM on muscle spasticity have yet to be studied.”
A 2020 study reported in the journal Children found that “ankle joint mobilization [by manual chiropractic manipulation] can be regarded as a promising method to increase dorsiflexion and improve gait in CP-suffering children.”
The jury is out with regard to chiropractic medicine’s efficacy in treating MS pain. According to Everyday Health, “chiropractic care may help with chronic pain in patients with MS and most people who had chiropractic care for MS would recommend the treatment to other MS patients.”
Sensory Processing Disorder
A 2018 case study and literature review in Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health Chiropractic, Volume 2018 “presents the improvement in a child with SPD [sensory processing disorder], sleep challenges, and speech delay after reduction of vertebral subluxation [displacements of the spinal bones].” Based on their findings, study authors recommended further research.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics reported significant developmental advancements in a four-year-old boy with developmental delays over a five-month course of chiropractic care. Study authors concluded that their data showed “a possible association between chiropractic care and improvements in delayed development in a four-year-old child. Additional research is necessary to further understand the role chiropractors may play in caring for children with developmental delays.”
Though many chiropractors tout the benefits of chiropractic medicine for children with Asperger’s syndrome, there is not much research to support their claims. Indeed, many skeptics say that these claims represent nothing but “pseudoscience.”
That said, some patients insist they experience relief from particular chiropractic techniques. For example, a study published in Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health Chiropractic, reported that a 9-year-old boy with ASD who saw a chiropractor for back, neck and abdominal pain as well as anxiety found relief of musculoskeletal symptoms and behavioral challenges. Study authors concluded that “This study provides supporting evidence on the benefits of chiropractic care in patients with ASD. Additional research on this is recommended.” This study provides supporting evidence on the benefits of chiropractic care in patients with ASD. Additional research on this is recommended.
The bottom line? We can’t endorse chiropractic for disabilities based on the research we’ve found. But it’s worth watching what future research about this alternative treatment may discover.
Cerebral palsy is the most common childhood motor disability, affecting someone’s ability to move, speech and cognitive development. It’s helpful to find appropriate toys for your loved ones who have cerebral palsy. Adaptive toys allow people with cerebral palsy to have fun while developing their mental, social and cognitive skills.
When selecting a suitable toy for someone with cerebral palsy, you’ll want to consider a range of factors, including whether the toy is wheelchair accessible, whether the toy will properly engage your loved one and if the toy is appropriate for a child’s developmental stage. Below, we’ll discuss the best toys for people with cerebral palsy.
1. Building and Stacking Toys
Motor impairments like stiff muscles, tremors, difficulty with walking and problems with fine motor skills are some common symptoms of cerebral palsy. Large stacking and building toys are effective ways to help children develop their coordination, making them one of the best toys for kids with cerebral palsy.
The Musical Bear Stacker is a sensory-motor stacking toy that empowers people with cerebral palsy to build their motor skills. A child can practice stacking three large, colorful rings or press the bear’s head to make the toy light up and play “London Bridge” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.
This toy is fun for children with a range of ability levels, as they can also press an attached switch to activate the lights and music. Beyond helping develop motor skills, this toy also teaches cause and effect and helps children differentiate between sizes and colors.
2. Kinetic Sand
Kinetic sand is one of the best toys for adults and kids with cerebral palsy. The soft sand slowly moves by itself, providing a soothing tactile and visual sensory experience. It’s completely dry but still easy to mold, helping people with cerebral palsy develop their motor skills, coordination and hand strength.
Playing with the sand will help spark the imagination by offering a wide variety of ways to play. For example, kids can play with molds to build sandcastles, draw in the sand, bury other toys or make hand imprints. With kinetic sand, your loved one will be able to play in many ways while developing their cognitive, physical and social skills.
3. Paints and Art Supplies
Arts and crafts are an excellent way to enhance color recognition, encourage imaginative play and build motor skills. Art provides children and adults with an outlet to express their emotions, communicate and increase their self-esteem. Switch-operated art supplies offer a way for people with cerebral palsy to participate in the arts.
Toys like the Adapted Battery Operated Scissors and Swirl Art are great options to help people with limited motor skills create art. With the press of a switch, these toys help people with cerebral palsy cut paper or make colorful designs. These tools will empower your loved one to express themselves and build their artistic development.
4. Multi-Functional Balls
People with cerebral palsy may display symptoms of sensory integration dysfunction, in which they have either increased or decreased sensory perceptions. For example, someone with cerebral palsy may appear clumsy in instances of decreased sensory sensitivity. On the other hand, a heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli could include strong reactions to specific sounds or textures.
A multi-functional Therapeutic Balls Kit can help children with cerebral palsy develop their tactile processing and sensitivity while increasing their range of motion. The kit comes with 13 different balls of different colors, textures, sizes, and firmness for tactile exploration and improving hand-eye coordination.
Musical instruments are one of the best toys for kids and adults with cerebral palsy. Musical therapy uses instruments and music to encourage cognitive, social and physical development. Further, music comes with a range of health benefits, including decreased stress, lower blood pressure and improved mood. Beyond the health benefits of musical therapy, making music gives people with cerebral palsy an opportunity for self-expression.
Your loved one will experience a range of benefits from the gift of instruments:
Physical skills: Musical therapy helps people with cerebral palsy by asking them to balance between percussion instruments on either side of them, by tapping or shaking particular items or through stomping and dancing.
Social enhancement: Many people with cerebral palsy have trouble with verbal communication. Music allows people with cerebral palsy to communicate in a non-verbal way. Further, you can practice taking turns with musical instruments by switching instruments with your loved one.
Cognitive development: Engaging in musical challenges helps increase cognitive development by encouraging memory and concentration skills. You can ask loved ones with cerebral palsy to choose the correct instrument for a particular piano cue to help boost their memory skills.
Toys like the Music Machine Set or the Music Box provide an opportunity to enhance the social, cognitive and physical development of your loved one with cerebral palsy. The Music Box encourages listening skills by playing four different tunes with flashing lights when you press a switch. The Music Machine Set is also switch-activated and comes with both a stationary and mobile holding arm to help someone with cerebral palsy play different instruments.
6. iPads and Accessories
iPads help people with cerebral palsy improve their motor and communication skills. Modern technology equips your loved one to better communicate and command their device via features like voice control and speech generators. Children can also use different applications as their skills advance to encourage continuous growth.
However, iPads may be challenging for some people with cerebral palsy to use. Mounting systems to attach a device to a wheelchair or tabletop, switches or styluses can help your loved one use an iPad to its total capacity. Adaptive technology for the iPad allows both children and adults with cerebral palsy to gain independence, keep learning, communicate better and adjust their device to best fit their needs.
Enabling Devices Empowers People With Cerebral Palsy
Enabling Devices has been delivering adaptive solutions for people with special needs for more than four decades. We offer a wide range of products for communication, sensory-motor toys and adaptive switches. We have the best toys for people with cerebral palsy to help your loved one develop their social, physical, cognitive and creative capabilities. We’ll even work with you to build custom products for your specific needs.
Contact us today to learn more about our adaptive devices for cerebral palsy and other disabilities!
As it is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, it’s a great time to look at some of the latest research, treatments and innovations affecting individuals with CP. We scoured the children’s rare disease cohorts and here are some of the most interesting developments we found.
1. New treatment strategy for children with CP
In January, Northern Arizona University announced that mechanical engineer and inventor Zach Lerner, an assistant professor in the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering was awarded $2.1 million in funding by the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. The funding makes it possible for Lerner to establish a five-year clinical trial to test his patented and patent-pending inventions intended to help children with CP walk. In a press release, Lerner said “The project builds directly on the work we’ve been doing at NAU for the past five years—developing an adaptive ankle exoskeleton device that offers a lightweight, portable and effective way to improve mobility in children with CP.”
Whereas other treatments designed to help children walk more independently have shown little promise, Lerner and his team believe that the device they invented could “revolutionize rehabilitation of patients with neuromuscular deficiencies.”
2. New study shows genetic origins of CP in some children
A study published Jan. 24 in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology found that as many as one in four individuals with CP have an underlying genetic condition. Siddharth Srivastava, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital who specializes in neurogenetic disorders notes that most physicians assume that CP was caused by asphyxia or personal injury. While Srivastava says this is the case for many children with CP, a considerable number—as much as 20%—don’t fit into that category. She and her research team used the Children’s Rare Disease Cohorts genomic initiative to sequence the DNA of 50 10-year-old children with CP. Their findings may have important implications for the treatment plans of these children. For example, “One had a mutation in a gene linked to a metabolic disorder and was referred to the metabolism clinic. Another was referred for ocular and kidney evaluations based on his mutation. A third had a mutation linked to a progressive neurological disorder. This alerted his care team to watch for worsening of his condition.”
3. Effective treatments for individuals with ipsilateral connectivity
Ipsilateral connectivity occurs when both sides of the body are controlled by one side of the brain and often results in problems controlling hand and arm movements. But new research by Andrew Gordon and his colleagues at Teachers College, Columbia University clarified the efficacy of two therapies. Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) is a treatment in which the child’s arm is temporarily restrained to build neural connections and motor skills in a brief period of time. Another therapy, known as Hand Arm Bimanual Intensive Training (HABIT) also helps to improve hand and arm functioning in children with CP using intensive bimanual training. The training is done in a group environment for 90 hours in which children perform fun activities designed to improve hand functioning and increase their ability to perform skills of daily living.
4. A new sport may help children with CP in a variety of ways
According to the University of South Australia (UniSA), RaceRunning, also known as Frame Running, “is a sport that uses a three-wheeled ‘bike’ frame to support the bodyweight of a person who has a gait impairment, allowing them to propel themselves forward and move at quick pace.”
While the sport has existed for several decades, RaceRunning became a Paralympic sport in 2017 and is also the subject of a new study by UniSA in conjunction with the Women’s and Children’s Health Network (WCHN). The study will monitor the physical, social and mental health of 15 children and teens with CP over 12 weeks as they participate in group training sessions using individually fitted RaceRunning frames.
According to a UniSA press release, researchers Associate Professor Kade Davison and Lauren McDougall believe findings from the new trial have potential to improve the quality of life for children with cerebral palsy.
Adds McDougall: “RaceRunning gives kids an opportunity to participate in an activity that allows them to experience the rush of being able to run–something that many kids with cerebral palsy have never experienced–while also letting them play and socialize with others in the same situation.”
March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, which means it’s the perfect time to increase understanding about CP and to promote the full inclusion of individuals with CP in our communities.
Though CP is the most common childhood motor disability, misconceptions about the condition are also quite common. In this week’s Enabling Devices blog, we break down the myths and share some important facts about CP.
1. Cerebral Palsy is a disease
False! According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles. It is not hereditary or contagious.
2. All people with CP are the same
False! Each person with CP is different and CP affects every person differently.
According to the CDC, there are four main types of CP.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy(Pyramidal) is the most common form of the condition affecting as many as 80%. Spastic CP is caused by increased muscle tone which makes muscles tight and movement awkward.
Dyskinetic CP is a less commonly occurring type of CP in which the affected individual has difficulty controlling the movement of their hands, arms, feet, and legs. In some cases, the face and tongue are affected and there may be problems with speech, sucking and swallowing.
Ataxic CP causes problems with balance and coordination. An individual with this type of CP might have trouble retaining their balance when walking. Moving quickly and fine motor tasks such as writing can also be difficult. When reaching for an object, individuals may have trouble controlling their arms and hands.
Mixed CP is when an individual experiences symptoms of at least two types of CP. The most common type of mixed CP is spastic-dyskinetic CP.
3. People with cerebral palsy can’t walk
False! About 50-60% of people with CP can walk independently. The fact is that CP affects each person differently depending on how their brain is affected. While many people with CP do use wheelchairs, that doesn’t mean they can’t be full participants in most activities. It is important that all of us advocate for the services and infrastructural changes needed to ensure that all places are wheelchair accessible.
4. All people with CP have intellectual disabilities
False! While 50% of individuals with CP have some form of intellectual disability ranging from mild to severe, the other 50% have average or above average intelligence. Many individuals with CP are high achievers who rise to the top of their fields. For example, actor Roy Frank “RJ” Mitte; British Racing Driver Nicolas Hamilton; comedian Josh Blue; and artist and speaker Dan Keplinger.
5. CP is a progressive disease
False! CP is permanent but not progressive. Its symptoms may worsen without appropriate treatment, though, so it’s important to seek assistance as early as possible.
6. People with CP can’t communicate
False! While CP may cause difficulty with speech, that is not always the case. Even when speech disability does occur, most people with CP can understand what’s being said and communication is still possible through non-verbal means. For example, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices including those on sale through Enabling Devices make it possible for everyone to be part of the conversation.
7. CP can be cured
False! CP is permanent but many treatments can help with symptoms and functioning. For best outcomes, treatment and therapies should be initiated as soon as a diagnosis of CP is made. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, new treatments are emerging all the time. According to the Ability Center, some of the most promising include deep brain stimulation; Botox injections; and stem cell therapy.
Cerebral Palsy (CP) refers to a group of conditions that affect an individual’s ability to move. People with CP generally experience difficulty walking, balancing or controlling their muscles.
Because cerebral palsy restricts movement, it can be difficult for people with the condition to interact with the world around them, especially because the objects and activities available aren’t often designed with differing ability levels in mind.
If you know someone with cerebral palsy and want to support them, you can start by helping them access the physical world. Special modifications make many activities accessible to these individuals, empowering them to live engaging and active lives.
How Adaptive Toys Are Made for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in children, yet many children with CP still struggle to find toys and games they can access. This issue exists because many products require the fine motor skills and coordination that CP makes difficult. For some, the restriction can make enriching play close to impossible.
At Enabling Devices, we understand the joy play adds to a child’s life. To bring this vital aspect of growing up to more children and teens, we developed a variety of adaptive toys and toy modifications designed specifically for kids with mobility limitations. Toys with extra-large switches or enhanced grip can make play accessible to many children with special needs, including those with cerebral palsy.
Benefits of Adaptive Toys for Children With Cerebral Palsy
All children are drawn to play. In addition to providing fun and entertainment, play activities help kids learn as well as grow and develop important physical, emotional and mental skills. Adaptive toys help children with CP access all the benefits of play within their capabilities.
The benefits of play vary from child to child and by stage of development. Here are a few general benefits of adaptive toys for children with cerebral palsy:
For babies: Playing with toys can help babies with CP explore, engage with the physical world and mentally develop alongside their peers.
For toddlers: Toys designed for toddlers with CP can provide important practice with different motor skills.
For children: Playing with toys can help children with CP reach important developmental milestones and improve language and social skills.
Adaptive toys also help parents of children with cerebral palsy by providing an outlet for their children to interact, explore and express themselves — aspects of child development that delight all parents.
How to Select the Right Adapted Product
Since all people with CP are unique, you should try to choose products that appeal to their personal interests and align with their goals. Here are a few additional questions parents and caregivers can ask themselves when selecting an adaptive or modified toy:
Can my child use this toy in a wheelchair or other position?
Does this toy respond to input or action to engage my child?
Is this toy appropriate for my child’s stage of development?
You might also try to pick toys that the child can use without much physical assistance. Such items can help kids develop confidence and independence within their ability.
Have a Device in Mind That You Don’t See? We May Be Able to Make It for You!
All children deserve access to toys that help them learn and grow. Physical limitations shouldn’t prevent a child from having fun. At Enabling Devices, we offer toys for children and adults of all ages who have cerebral palsy.
We also know that the perfect toy for your child may not exist yet. If you have an idea for a device but don’t see it on our website, reach out to us! We’d love to work with you to develop a product that meets your needs.
March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month! Observed since 2005, CP Awareness Month is a great opportunity to educate the public about this relatively common neurological disorder. It’s also a great time to raise research dollars for a condition that impacts more than 1 million people in the United States.
According to the Cerebral Palsy Research Network, CP “describes a group of permanent disorders of the development of movement and posture, causing activity limitation, that are attributed to non-progressive disturbances that occurred in the developing fetal or infant brain. The motor disorders of cerebral palsy are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, perception, cognition, communication, and behavior, by epilepsy, and by secondary musculoskeletal problems.”
Research conducted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and other nonprofits is continually increasing our understanding about the etiology of CP, its prevention and new therapies to treat the disorder. Below are examples of five current areas of scientific inquiry.
Botox or botulinum toxin type A is best known as a cosmetic treatment that temporarily reduces the appearance of forehead lines, crow’s feet and frown lines caused by the aging process. But Botox has many other uses as well. One such use is the temporary reduction of spasticity in children with CP. Though Botox is widely used in this capacity, It’s not without drawbacks. Some research has found that Botox can result in muscle weakening that may be irreversible. Researchers are continuing to learn more about Botox and the pros and cons of using it in the treatment of children with CP.
2. Stem Cell Therapy
Though still in the early stages, “Scientists are hopeful that stem cells may be able to repair damaged nerves and brain tissues,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Studies in the U.S. are examining the safety and tolerability of umbilical cord blood stem cell infusion in children with CP.” Funding for large-scale clinical trials is critically important in order to learn more about the safety and efficacy of this promising treatment.
3. Genetic Defects
In Sept. 2020, the journal Nature Genetics reported on the findings of a new NIH study by scientists at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the University of Arizona College of Medicine. The study, the largest of its kind, found that 14% of cerebral palsy cases are caused by genetic mutations. In a press release, Michael Kruer, M.D., a neurogeneticist at the hospital and a senior author of the article said: “Our results provide the strongest evidence to date that a significant portion of cerebral palsy cases can be linked to rare genetic mutations, and in doing so identified several key genetic pathways involved.”
4. Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) CIMT shows promise in the treatment of individuals with Hemiplegic CP, a type of CP that affects one side of the body. These individuals have an impaired ability to move their upper extremities on the side that’s affected. “CIMT is designed to improve the function of the most affected limb by restricting the use of the less affected limb in individuals with unilateral upper extremity involvement and implementing an intensive motor learning-based training program,” according to researchers involved in a recent clinical trial headed up by Sezen Tezcan at Abant Izzet Baysal University.
5. White Matter Brain Research
According to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, “Neuroinflammation that damages the white matter of premature infants is one of the most common causes of cerebral palsy.” Dr. Michael V. Johnston, Chief Medical Officer at Kennedy Krieger and his team of researchers are engaged in research to discover whether non-invasive anti-inflammation medication can reduce white matter brain inflammation in newborn babies with CP, or infants at risk for CP.
Although it often gets lumped in with chronic “diseases,” cerebral palsy is not a disease. It is a condition that results from damage to areas of the brain responsible for movement a child experiences while they are in the womb or, in some cases, immediately after birth. Doctors can usually diagnose cerebral palsy, or CP, early on — during or not long after infancy.
Because cerebral palsy treatment and severity can look different for each person, developing a plan for how to care for your loved one with this condition or how to help someone with CP is a critical part of helping them manage it throughout childhood and adulthood. No matter how much you love someone, caring for a child or adult with cerebral palsy is stressful. It puts a lot of pressure on you every day. And, if you aren’t careful, the ins and outs of figuring out how to manage your loved one’s symptoms can quickly become overwhelming.
While we can’t cure cerebral palsy or suddenly make all your stressors disappear, specific strategies and products can help make your job as a caregiver just a little bit easier.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a condition that results when a child experiences brain damage in the womb or immediately after birth. Marked by problems related to movement, muscle tone and posture, its effects are permanent.
The severity of cerebral palsy can vary, providing challenges that are unique for every caregiver. Some people with cerebral palsy can walk on their own, while others must rely on a wheelchair. Some can communicate their needs, and others are non-verbal. While cerebral palsy itself is a neurological condition, it can lead to a variety of other problems for individuals. While each person is different, in general, someone with cerebral palsy is also more likely to struggle with:
Abnormal perceptions of touch or pain
Hearing and vision problems
Intellectual disabilities, including ADD and ADHD
Mental health conditions
An individual with CP does face a unique set of challenges, but in today’s world, there many tools and strategies available to help them progress and live happy, productive lives. In many cases, they can make significant strides toward independence, which also relieves some of the pressure on their caregivers.
As a caregiver for someone with cerebral palsy — whether child or adult — you are always looking for ways to help your loved one improve their overall health and well-being. At Enabling Devices, we understand care for cerebral palsy in the home is an ongoing process of education and discovery. You never stop growing and learning, because you are determined to do the best you can as you care for your loved one.
Making Daily Life Easier
When it comes to at-home care for cerebral palsy, there are a lot of products and strategies available to help make life easier. Knowing what’s out there and how it can help you is essential to provide care for someone you love successfully.
Remember, establishing routines and an effective care plan may take time. After all, figuring out what works best doesn’t usually happen overnight. There will be times of trial and error before you finally settle on what works. You may spend months trying a new product or strategy, only to discover a better option down the road.
CP is a lifelong condition, so taking time to try different strategies and developing a plan that works for your loved one’s unique challenges is the best way to make sure everyone is comfortable and thriving where they are.
As you strive toward this, it’s essential to take time for self-care. Find ways to relieve stress, ask for help — more about that later — and remember to rest. One of the best cerebral palsy caregiving tips is to make sure you are helping yourself, too.
Communication and Language Development
One unique challenge that accompanies caring for someone with cerebral palsy is encouraging communication and language development. While cerebral palsy itself is typically a condition that affects movement, it can have profound cognitive impacts as well. Because of the limitations on their muscle development and function, individuals with cerebral palsy may struggle with facial expressions, gestures, speech, voice production and language — that is, being able to communicate and express their needs in a clear, concise way.
When it comes to how to raise a child with cerebral palsy, one vital job of caregivers is to address these issues when children are young, so as they grow, they learn to communicate and function in the world around them.
This strategy is simple. As your child performs an activity — for example, playing with wooden blocks — you, the parent, talk about what’s happening while they do it. As they play, you might say, “Oh, look, you’re building with blocks. You put the red on top of the blue. Oh no, they fell over!” Think of it as narrating your child’s activities.
This method is similar to parallel talk, only you are narrating what you as the parent are doing, rather than observing your child. As you play with your child, talk about what you are doing. For example, as you play with blocks, you might say, “Here is a yellow block. I think I will put it on top of the red block. Look at that! The red block is shaped like a square.”
3. Expansions and Extensions
In this case, you as the caregiver can add on to your child’s vocabulary to help them expand it. For example, if your child says “Dog,” you can expand it by saying “Fluffy dog.” Or, you can extend it to say, “The man is walking the dog.”
4. Non-Verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication falls into two categories — assisted and unassisted. Assisted includes technologies designed to help non-verbal individuals express themselves, such as computers, speech synthesis machines, or Augmentative & Alternative Communicators (AAC). Enabling Devices has dozens of AAC devices. These devices can be as simple as a one-message communicator, multiple message communicators, or progressive communicators that grow with your child. Unassisted includes communication methods such as sign language. If your child is non-verbal, trying out some of these options can ease frustrations and provide a means for communication.
5. Create Opportunities
Sometimes, the best way to encourage a child’s communication is to give them opportunities to practice. Place a favorite toy just out of their reach, so they will have to ask for it. Or, encourage them to socialize with other people. The more opportunities they have to practice communication, the better they will become at expressing their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
Developing Hand/Eye Coordination and Fine Motor Skills
Hand/eye coordination is an essential function for someone with cerebral palsy. As the use of visual cues to direct and engage the hands in action, hand/eye coordination can be challenging for someone with cerebral palsy because it requires the simultaneous use of the vision system as well as the hands and muscles.
Often mentioned in tandem with fine motor skills, which require tiny muscle movements, hand/eye coordination is the development of the skill of using the vision system and hand muscles simultaneously.
One of the best ways to help your loved one develop in one or both of these areas is with one of Enabling Devices’ assistive technologies. These devices provide fun and, often, guided interaction between the individual and their caregiver to help people with cerebral palsy in their development. The goal of these devices is to improve hand/eye coordination, as well as assist individuals with cerebral palsy as they develop and improve their fine motor skills.
1. Shape Sorting
Reminiscent of a popular child’s toy, this low-profile shape sorter — fondly called Drop-in-a-Bucket — is designed for players who have a more limited reach. The bucket has lights on it to attract the user’s attention, as well as music that plays when the user drops the shape into the correct hole. One great thing about this is that it teaches object placement and hand/eye coordination, as well as shape recognition. That combines two crucial functions into one item!
2. Pull and Play Switch
The Pull and Play Switch encourages the practice of three important motions — swiping, grasping and reaching. It can attach to a tabletop, wheelchair or bed rail, and comes with two different sized pulls. The object of the game is to encourage the player to reach for the ball suspended from the frame and then grab on to it with a finger or hand.
3. Stacking Blocks
These Stacking Blocks are designed to develop several skills vital to an individual with cerebral palsy. The object is to hone fine motor skills by placing one block at a time on the stack until it’s complete. As the individual places blocks onto the stack, they can also work on addition and subtraction and hand/eye coordination as they work to use their hands to guide the blocks to the right place.
4. Fine Motor Kit
Two Fine Motor Kits include different items that are designed to help children and teenagers strengthen their fingers and hands, develop grasping skills and hone their fine motor skills. It contains two pairs of easy-grip scissors, several games and the teen kit even has a Glow-in-the-Dark Dreamcatcher.
Daily Living Tasks
Another challenge caregivers often face is enabling your loved one with cerebral palsy to complete daily tasks. Generally speaking, four main tasks comprise the category of daily living — personal hygiene, eating/drinking, dressing and using the bathroom.
While the extent of a person’s CP will indeed dictate their ability to perform any of these four activities, it should be the goal of any caregiver to promote as much independence as possible to build and maintain muscle function, as well as for peace of mind. Caregivers cannot be present every second of every day, and teaching an individual with cerebral palsy to perform specific tasks on their own can give them a sense of independence, as well as provide a much-needed respite for you.
Your medical team can provide guidance on how to go about teaching and developing certain skills within an individual with cerebral palsy, but it is critical to find ways to incorporate instruction into daily activities when raising a child with cerebral palsy. For example, use mealtime as a time to gradually teach your loved one to feed themselves. To do this, you can prepare them ahead of time for the table setup, what utensils they will use and what they will be eating. Then, during the meal, work with them on correct posture and the mechanics of chewing, if necessary, as well as identifying unfamiliar foods and the proper way to eat.
There are also a variety of useful products on the market that focus on how to help someone with cerebral palsy as they develop muscle control and the ability to perform daily living tasks. For example, tools like Enabling Devices’ ADL Boards help individuals with cerebral palsy develop the skills they need to dress. Each of the four boards helps with mastery of manipulative skills, including buttons, snaps, laces and zippers.
Over time, if a person’s abilities allow, they can also begin to practice and master specific life skills — that is, skills that help them care for themselves on more than a basic level. These skills might include housework, meal preparation, communication, managing finances and shopping. They can also include pursuing hobbies and activities that are of interest to the individual.
Depending on their abilities, products such as Enabling Devices’ battery-powered scissors provide electronic cutting, promoting independence and allowing someone with limited mobility to cut paper, fabric and other items on their own. While a pair of scissors might seem like no big deal, to a person with physical limitations, the ability to use an everyday object like a pair of scissors can provide a much-needed boost in their self-esteem and joy.
Products for Sensory Needs
Along with the physical challenges that come with cerebral palsy, individuals with this condition can also struggle with sensory processing disorder. While a sensory processing disorder can manifest itself in many different ways, it means they have a heightened sensitivity to things in their environment. These could include fear of loud noises, sensitivity to scratchy fabrics or even failure to respond when they encounter extreme temperatures. Yes, everyone hates startling sounds or the tastes of certain foods, but, for an individual with a sensory processing disorder, these aversions can take on an exaggerated effect to the point where they have a negative physical response to a trigger, such as vomiting when a loud noise happens.
Enabling Devices offers a variety of products designed to help individuals with sensory processing disorder, including toys, lights and chairs. We also provide sensory room design services to connect families with special needs to trained professionals who can recommend designs and products tailored to their individual needs.
Essential Products and Adapted Devices
One especially significant tool for individuals with cerebral palsy is the adaptive switch, a button used to activate adapted devices. The size and technology behind switches vary, so there is something out there for individuals of all levels of disability. These switches can make it possible for individuals with cerebral palsy to access a variety of devices including communicators, adapted toys, adapted electronics and even iPads. Enabling Devices has dozens of switches that address a wide range of needs — head switches, hand switches, sip & puff switches, mounted switches, and even an eye blink switch.
Caregivers can attach switches to mounts, which come in a variety of sizes and designs. The job of a mount is to position a switch in a way that makes it most accessible for a particular individual based upon their physical needs. These can make a huge difference for an individual with limited physical abilities.
What good would switches and mounts be without adapted devices that attach to them? Enabling Devices offers hundreds of adapted devices that work with our switches. These include:
Being the parent of a child or adult with cerebral palsy can be both physically and mentally demanding. Just as you are intentional about taking good care of your loved one, you should also be intentional about taking care of yourself. Caregiver burnout can result in depression, anxiety and a variety of mental and physical health issues.
Unfortunately, all the devices and assistive technology in the world cannot prevent a caregiver from overdoing it. As a caregiver, you have a responsibility to yourself, as well as your loved one, to ask for help. This assistance could be in the form of a babysitter who comes once a week while you go to a movie, or it could be a trained professional who takes a more frequent and active role in the day-to-day care of your loved one.
Whatever route you decide to take, you will likely feel some apprehension about allowing someone else to spend time with your child without you present — no matter how old your child is. Some anxiety is normal, especially in the beginning. But, as you adapt to the presence of another person, it’s important to remember:
1. Change Is Good
Your child can find happiness and a fresh perspective when they spend a few hours with someone else. Interacting with a new person, encountering different ideas and playing various games can be stimulating for them, as well as you.
2. Taking Care of Yourself Helps Your Family
By avoiding caregiver burnout, you keep yourself mentally sharp and ready to care for your family, which is particularly vital if you have others in your home who do not have cerebral palsy. When you a break from your responsibilities as a caregiver, you can pay better attention to your other family members and nurture relationships that might otherwise fall by the wayside.
Just because it’s important to get help doesn’t mean you’ll leave your loved one with the first person you find. Take time to find someone you trust, and make sure they understand how to babysit a child with cerebral palsy. Then, once you’ve hired someone, spend time with them outlining expectations and routines. Be clear about what you expect, and make sure you know what their expectations are too.
About Enabling Devices
Since our founding in 1978, Enabling Devices has been dedicated to providing high-quality, individualized service to our clients and their families. Our goal goes beyond providing products to perform a task or assist with a daily function. Our mission is to create products that allow our clients to unlock their full potential and experience joy and independence they didn’t think was possible.
Enabling Devices is proud to serve clients with a variety of needs, including clients with cerebral palsy. We offer a wide range of products to provide accessibility and to address muscle development, sensory issues, fine motor skills, teach cause and effect, and much more.
For questions about our products or to place an order, contact us today at 800-832-8697.
March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. Here at Enabling Devices, we’re celebrating with a blog that highlights some of the life-changing research being done to improve the lives of people with Cerebral Palsy.
According to United Cerebral Palsy, CP is characterized by “a number of disorders affecting body movement, posture and muscle coordination Caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, CP usually occurs during fetal development; before, during or shortly after birth; during infancy; or during early childhood.”
CP affects more children than any other mobility disability. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that “about 10,000 babies born in the United States will develop cerebral palsy.” Approximately 764,000 people in the U.S. have CP. Want more info? Both the CDC and UCP have tons of facts and figures.
While there is no cure for CP, thanks to research and clinical trials, treatments continue to improve and people with CP are living fuller and more independent lives than ever before. We’ve scoured the web to find information about the latest and greatest CP research news. Here’s what we found:
Music therapy is a useful tool
A study in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine published in February 2018 found that music therapy helps children with severe bilateral cerebral palsy have improved upper limb functioning. As Cerebral Palsy News reported: “After completing 16 weeks of treatment, children in the intervention group showed significant improvements in locomotor function and in the ‘arm and hand position’ and ‘activities’ sections of the Chailey Levels of Ability test. This test assesses the functional skills of children with severe cerebral palsy.”
Simulated hippotherapy is helpful
According to Justin Burton, MD; co-program director and pediatric rehabilitation medicine physician at the National Center for Children’s Rehabilitation, hippotherapy is one of the most effective types of therapy and can help improve balance, strength, endurance, and ultimately function and quality of life.”
But hippotherapy, which traditionally refers to therapeutic horse-back riding, isn’t accessible to everyone. So, Dr. Burton, his colleague Olga Morozoba and a team of medical professionals have created a horseback riding simulator so that more children with CP can benefit from the therapy. “The simulator focuses on increasing a child’s ability to maintain control of his or her torso, which is the core (or trunk) of the body,” Burton told News-Medical.net.
Stem cell infusions are beneficial
An Oct. 2017 study at Duke University found that stem cell infusions can improve “whole brain connectivity and motor function in young children with cerebral palsy.” According to Disability Scoop, the November 2017 study, looked at 63 children with spastic CP and discovered that children between the ages of 1 and 6, who were infused with stem cells from their own umbilical cord blood, showed significant improvements in motor functioning.
Dysport, is a good deal
Injections of Dysport and its cousin, the more well-known Botox, are used to decrease spasticity and increase muscle tone in people with CP. A recent study in the European Journal of Pediatric Neurology showed that “ Dysport, when given at a two-fold higher unit dose than Botox, is safe and equally effective in improving muscle function and reducing pain, while significantly reducing treatment-associated costs,” Cerebral Palsy News Today reported.
Task oriented training works
A preliminary study by researchers at Gachon University in Incheon, South Korea found that “Task Oriented Training (TOT) improves hand dexterity in children with CP,” according to Cerebral Palsy News Today. Task training uses every-day activities such as walking, answering the telephone, opening a jar, etc. to help people to learn new skills.
March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and at Enabling Devices, we believe that one of the best ways of raising awareness is through books! Few books did more to raise awareness about CP and the potential of people with CP than the 1952 best-seller, “Karen” by Marie Killilea. Killilea also published a sequel called, “With Love from Karen” in 1963 and “Wren,” a children’s version of Karen’s story published in 1968.
Written long before the Americans with Disabilities Act and decades before people with disabilities had the benefits of technology, at a time when doctors routinely told parents whose children were born with CP to institutionalize and forget about them, “Karen,” which tells the true story of Karen Killilea, was nothing short of groundbreaking.
When she was born in 1940, Karen Killilea was three months early and weighed less than two pounds. As she failed to reach developmental milestones, Karen’s parents consulted with doctors who were unable to provide a clear diagnosis but were overwhelmingly pessimistic about the little girl’s prognosis. According to Marie Killileas’ 1991 obituary, doctors told her and her husband James that their daughter’s “case was hopeless”. They said that “Karen had no intellect, could never learn to walk or communicate with others.” But Marie knew they were wrong.
It took several years, but eventually, Marie and James learned that Karen had CP. Against medical advice to institutionalize their daughter, they kept Karen, their third child, at home with the family in Rye, N.Y., just a few miles away from the headquarters of Enabling Devices! Marie began a tireless effort to find a doctor who could help her daughter.
A 2006 report compiled by United Cerebral Palsy says “the Killileas consulted 23 top medical specialists and clinics in the United States and Canada,” before finding a doctor who agreed with Marie, that Karen had potential. The doctor could see Karen was intelligent and prescribed a home exercise regimen, a highly unusual practice in those days. Marie worked with Karen daily for 10 years and Karen eventually learned to walk with the aid of crutches, to swim and to write.
When Marie wasn’t busy providing therapy for Karen, caring for her other three children and writing her memoirs, she was advocating for people with cerebral palsy. Marie cofounded the Cerebral Palsy Association of Westchester as well as a national CP organization that later became United Cerebral Palsy.
According to the UCP report, Karen “received letters from all over the world and once estimated she had answered 15,000 or more.” A quick internet search reveals that “Karen” still has many fans, some of whom were inspired to become nurses, and physical and occupational therapists because of their love of the books.
To the dismay of some fans, who were interested in knowing more about Karen’s story, she was intensely private.
But the UCP report did provide some comforting news.
“Karen lives in an accessible apartment in New Rochelle, N.Y. and works [as a receptionist] at a retreat house for priests run by Catholic monks,” the report reads. “Karen’s relatives shared with us that Karen is today thriving independently, living and loving life better than many of us could ever dream of.”
“Karen” and “With Love from Karen,” are available on eBook and used print copies may be found on eBay and elsewhere online. Though some may find them dated, they are well worth a read.
In recognition of National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, the team at Enabling Devices salutes our friends and colleagues at Cerebral Palsy of Westchester for the wonderful work they do for children and adults with CP and other disabilities.
Since the founding of Enabling Devices in 1974, CPW has worked hand in hand with us, providing recommendations, feedback and insights that have helped us to create products that enhance the lives of people with disabilities. We can’t thank them enough.
Earlier this month, we checked in with some of the good folks at CPW to ask them why National CP Awareness Month matters and how technology has impacted their work with clients. Here are some of the thoughts they shared:
Occupational therapist, Tina Weisman could talk forever about the children she treats at Cerebral Palsy of Westchester. Weisman, who has worked with children with CP for more than 20 years, believes that National CP Awareness Month isn’t only about raising awareness, it’s also about celebrating the extraordinary youngsters who have CP and all they can achieve.
“Those of us who work with children who have CP know that these children have the sweetest dispositions,” says Weisman. “They are so kind to each other. They celebrate each other’s achievements. We learn from them all the time.”
Weisman’s colleague, Melissa Cordone, a speech language pathologist at CP Westchester, couldn’t agree more. “These children just make my day, every day,” she says. In fact, Cordone finds her career so rewarding, she travels two hours each way to get to and from her workplace!
As therapists, Cordone and Weisman focus less on their clients’ disabilities and more on maximizing their abilities. They have seen, first hand, how technological advances have given people with CP and other disabilities unprecedented and life-changing access to online learning, communication and entertainment experiences.
Lisa Fisher, curriculum coordinator and a 20-year veteran of CP Westchester sees the value of assistive technologies to the agency’s clients on a daily basis. Advances such as voiceover, mouse-sticks, switches, iPads and iPhones are just some of the technologies that help people to become more independent and improve the quality of their lives, says Fisher.
Through assistive technology, professionals at CPW gain valuable information about their clients’ cognitive abilities. “Before the iPad, we didn’t have the means to discover how much children knew and all they could do,” Weisman says.
Since many of the children at CP Westchester don’t have full use of their arms and legs, or are non-verbal, eye gaze technology, such as Enabling Devices’ Eye Talk communication board has been especially critical for many of the agency’s students. Products like our Tactile Symbol Communicator provide educational and soothing sensory experiences for blind, visually impaired or sensory seeking clients while devices like the 4 Choice Sequential Scanner help them to communicate and express their own preferences. Our extra large and light-up capability switches make it possible for the visually impaired and those with limited dexterity to play with toys. And speaking of toys …
“All children learn through play,” says Weisman. “Enabling Devices allows children with disabilities to access and play with the same toys as their peers. What’s different is how they play with their toys. Maybe they use a switch [for example], but the joy they get from playing with toys is the same,” says Weisman. “I can look at a toy and say, ‘I wish my kid could play with that’ and the people at Enabling Devices make it happen!”
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