occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists Can Assist With Motor Planning for Children With Cerebral Palsy

Motor planning is the ability to plan and carry out motor tasks. As our occupational therapists in Fort Myers know, this can be especially difficult for children with cerebral palsy. Early intervention is critical because motor planning is essential for every day functioning. When one has a deficit in motor planning, it’s going to result in motor behavior that is slower, clumsier and inefficient. It can mean physical activities are tougher to learn, retain and generalize. They may end up appearing awkward when trying to carry out a specific task. Occupational therapy helps children with cerebral palsy by working on these skills day-in, day-out, using fun activities to help them master each element of the activity.

A recent longitudinal study published in the Journal of Clinical Neuropsychology explored this connection between motor planning and cerebral palsy. Researchers closely followed 22 children with cerebral palsy alongside 22 other neuro-typical children of the same age. Each child was asked to perform a task that required those involved sacrificing their initial posture comfort to achieve an end-state comfort. Researchers made repeated observations over the course of a year.

What they discovered was that children with cerebral palsy showed poorer end-state planning when achieving critical angles. Further, unlike those children in the “control group,” those with cerebral palsy did not display improved motor planning skills over the course of a year. Researchers recommended more efforts be made to intervene and enhance motor planning skills for children with cerebral palsy.

At FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers, we can offer help from both occupational therapists and physical therapists, teaming up together simultaneously or working from the same plan of care, to help a child improve their motor planning skills. 

How Our Therapists Address Motor Planning Difficulties

Whether your child has cerebral palsy or some other condition that leads to poor motor planning (autism spectrum disorder, down syndrome, apraxia of speech, etc.), there are a number of strategies we can employ to help your child improve and conquer critical skills.

We typically utilize a multi-sensory approach to help children improve their responses to sensory input, which helps with body awareness and development of both fine and gross motor skills. We offer a sensory-rich environment with therapists who are engaged and compassionate – knowing when to push and when to give them a bit more space.

We also will focus on working on activities that have multiple steps, such as setting up an obstacle course or making a craft. We’ll identify what your child’s motor planning strengths are – and then play up those strengths to help your child learn to compensate for the other areas in which they may struggle. Occupational therapists also will set up fun activities that may involve learning to climb under, over or around large objects. This is going to help your child improve their basic knowledge of how to move their body in a given space. We are also fond of games and play that involves imitation (i.e., Itsy Bitsy Spider, Follow the Leader, etc.), because that is going to help your child plan their actions based on observing and copying their teachers, therapists and peers.

FOCUS offers pediatric occupational therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Motor planning in children with cerebral palsy: A longitudinal perspective, Oct. 23, 2017, Journal of Clinical Neurpsychology

More Blog Entries:

Occupational Therapy Can Help Your Child With Transitions, Oct. 25, 2017, Fort Myers Occupational Therapists’ Blog

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