Pediatric Diagnosis Spotlight: Cerebral Palsy

Meet Samara, a rockstar 8-year-old with cerebral palsy who is working hard in physical therapy to move on her own. She receives physical therapy at our Pawtucket clinic with Dr. Sarah Goldstein PT, DPT.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

The diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP) is given to children who are presenting with signs of a brain lesion, including tight muscles, disordered or uncoordinated movement, or difficulty with balance. Although the brain lesion that causes CP doesn’t progress over time, children sometimes experience musculoskeletal deformities like muscle contractures and changes to bone structures and joints.


How Physical Therapy Helps Treat Cerebral Palsy

The latest research on CP shows that strength training is important to improve muscle growth in size and length that helps to combat contracture development. It also helps to improve the child’s ability to move purposefully. Every case is unique, with a large range in presentation from a slight difficulty walking to a significant difficulty with independent mobility. That’s why it’s so important for physical therapists to develop an individualized care plan focusing on the goals of the child and their caregiver.


Samara’s Experience with Physical Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

Samara is a happy second-grader who loves to play. She loves playing with her dollhouse, basketball, and watching Encanto. Samara receives physical, occupational, and speech therapy at school, where art is her favorite subject.


Since starting her one-on-one physical therapy care with Dr. Sarah Goldstein in Pawtucket, she’s gained a great deal of confidence in her mobility. She now tries to stand up by herself and can get herself off the couch and dining room chairs safely on her own. Her mother believed that physical therapy would be the key to giving Samara the best opportunity in life and seeing her reach her fullest potential. She advises parents of children with cerebral palsy, “Nothing changes overnight. Everything takes time. We cannot compare our kids to other children because every child is different.”


Aquatic Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

Samara recently started in Performance’s pediatric aquatics program. With the buoyancy of the pool reducing body weight by 90 percent, this treatment is perfect for those who are learning or re-learning how to walk. Her mother saw the progress that many patients made in their ability to walk after their aquatic therapy treatment, so she is excited to see how this treatment can help Samara meet her movement goals.


If you’re concerned about your child’s mobility, please contact our pediatric physical therapists or call 401.726.7100 to schedule an evaluation. Our team of pediatric physical therapists is here to help your child optimize their movement.

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