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Therapeutic roles, treatments and learning systems

"Staff are keen to learn and take regular input from professionals. Some activities have been re-designed to include my son." Mother of child at nursery since four months old

Getting started

  • Find out what the interventions plan to achieve and any role your setting might have - ask parents for any current tasks / targets and so on.
  • Keep communication lines open with parents and professionals - ask questions.
  • Check if there are alternative ways of doing things.
  • Familiarise yourself with the specialist equipment provided.
  • Parents may need a bit of extra time for exchange of information.
  • Positive feedback is particularly valued by parents.


Usually when we talk about therapy for cerebral palsy we mean the three mainstream therapies - physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy, or forms of treatment that involve some or all of these. This section aims to give basic information about what therapists do and how they can help. It also signposts to some of the other treatments and complementary therapies that children with cerebral palsy may be experiencing. This is important especially since the parent may need support to communicate their child's experiences.

"I have to provide regular feedback to the nursery on the requirements of other therapies due to cross-boundary problems."
Parent of a three-year-old

How therapy can help children with cerebral palsy

Physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists often work closely together to devise treatment programmes that will meet the needs of both the child and the family. As the nature of cerebral palsy varies immensely, the therapy is adapted to the needs of the individual child. For example:

Physiotherapists might

  • work at teaching children how to inhibit spasticity (stiffness) in their muscles in order to promote and produce good patterns of movement. This is achieved through the use of exercise, structured physical activity and, if necessary, the use of splints.
  • look at the best posture, walking pattern and, in conjunction with an occupational therapist, seating for the child, implementing programmes to address a specific difficulty.

Occupational therapists might

  • try to develop certain physical and learning skills using special play equipment and advise on equipment to help mobility such as tricycles and trolleys.
  • give advice on equipment and aids that may enable the child to achieve greater success with everyday activities.
  • look at visual perception and be suggesting exercises to address issues here.

Speech and language therapists may be

  • involved very early on if a child has eating, drinking or swallowing problems
  • working towards implementing programmes to address a specific speech difficulty.
  • supporting a child with delayed language because they may be unable to play and explore like non-disabled children.
  • working with early years workers, occupational therapists and parents to encourage suitable learning activities.
  • providing aids (this might include the use of sign language, symbol speech or a communication aid to support communication) to help a child who is having major problems with language or speech.

Interventions will often lessen the frustration that an individual experiences at not being able to communicate their wishes and desires.

"The physios made up a postural management file, which was useful to show staff photos of how to position Emma in her equipment - standing frame, seating system, etc. Also explained how different positions - e.g. using wedge, bench, gaiters - could be used to promote inclusion and provide therapy simultaneously."
Comment from parent

Other treatments, therapies and learning systems

Scope produces information sheets on a range of treatments, therapies and learning systems including

  • An introduction to therapy
  • Bobath Therapy
  • Botulinum Toxin A
  • Dolphin Therapy
  • Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy (ITB for spasticity)
  • Lycra dynamic splinting: The UPSuit
  • Targeted Training; and
  • Conductive Education

It may be useful to know about Scope's links to the Schools for Parents network and Peto UK. Find out more at

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