Cerebral palsy is characterized by various physical impairments and disabilities that make walking, speaking, and eating hard. The severity of these symptoms may vary in scope from one patient to another and may also reduce the quality of life and mobility. These challenges can also adversely affect the mental and physical health of the patients.
The use of assistive devices can help patients with cerebral palsy to achieve greater autonomy and independence. Such devices include walkers, braces, and wheelchairs to improve their mobility and self-confidence. These devices are often used alongside physical therapy, and the physical therapist will help them learn how to use them properly.
Here are different types of assistive devices and how they help make life better for patients with cerebral palsy:
Wheelchairs are vital for most patients with cerebral palsy. It aids mobility and comes in different sizes and control modes. The needs of patients determine the control modes. For instance, one wheelchair might have a ‘joystick’ for control the patent will have little coordination and muscle control.
New advancements are being made daily to make patients with cerebral palsy comfortable. For example, if a patient has severe cerebral palsy and cannot control any of their hands, they can use a voice recognition wheelchair, one with other controls that they can use.
If you have a patient using a wheelchair, ensure that you always check for pressure sores and other skin problems that may arise. An occupational therapist will also teach you how to prevent the sore.
Strollers are for patients with weak muscle trunks who need assistance sitting upright. Most strollers come with chest straps to help keep that patient from falling over. When getting a stroller, you will need to look for essential features that will make an individual with cerebral palsy more comfortable. Some of these features include:
- Spring shock absorbers
- A gentle chest harness
- A lap belt
- Sturdy frames
- Adjustable straps and footplates
- Indoor swivel wheels
Walkers are essential for individuals who can walk but have a problem with balance. Some patients make significant improvements with therapy, where they no longer need a wheelchair but will use a walker for muscle coordination and balance.
The walkers are made of light metal and usually have four legs adjustable in height so they can grow with your child. Some walkers come with wheels or a basket or pouch to store your patient’s belongings.
Also referred to as orthosis, braces help patients with cerebral palsy with mobility and muscle tone. They help stretch the muscles that can get too tight and help with stability. Braces are available for wrists, arms, hands, hips, legs, and other limbs that may be affected by cerebral palsy. They can be made of plastic, metal, leather, or a combination of these materials.
Your specialist will recommend the type of brace to use and give you instructions on how to maintain it. It is important to note that children with cerebral palsy can quickly outgrow braces, and a poorly fitting one can cause redness, rashes, and blistering.
Patients with cerebral palsy have difficulty with muscle control and movement. Orthotic boots are a type of foot ware that helps stabilize the legs and feet for improved mobility. They also help correct underdeveloped muscles making them very effective for severe cases.
Orthotic boots are custom-built with a supportive part made of leather, metal, plastic, or carbon fiber. They help relieve pain, protect the feet and ankles from injuries that might be caused by stumbling or other related incidents, and correct abnormal foot structure and alignment.
Electronic Communication Boards
An electronic communication board allows individuals with cerebral palsy to choose letters, words, and phrases on the screen to express their thoughts and emotions. The boards are similar to electronic tablets with images, letters, and other symbols that patients can generate into sentences and read out loud to others.
The communication can produce an average of 10 words per minute. The level of training for a communication board depends on a patient’s literacy level. This can be done through speech therapy.
Cerebral palsy affects children in different ways. It is essential to get a doctor’s recommendation before deciding on the type of assistive device for your child or patient.