Why can’t I treat just one aspect of my child’s condition?

Whether a child has Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or stroke, every child is unique and has his own individual strengths and needs. While his symptoms may be similar to those generally associated with his disorder, his condition will always be different because of his individual personality and character. These two factors greatly influence how a child’s treatment should be approached, making it important to ensure that treatment is tailored to his specific needs, abilities, age, and stage of development. To progress, it is crucial for each therapy to follow in the footsteps of the one before it, so that treatment remains continuous and is reinforced at each step along the way.

In this regard, our goal in treatment is not to work on a child’s speech or motor function as if they were separate from the rest of his condition. Instead, we need to teach the brain how to perform different tasks, as a child’s function is based on commands which come from the brain. Everything else, such as a child’s symptoms or the tone in his body (hypertone or hypotone), happens as a result of the brain’s function. Being unable to perform a certain task can lead a child to adopting compensation patterns which, in turn, causes other compensation patterns to develop as well. In the end, a child may have to perform several compensatory movements just to do a simple task, and this is something we will need to address during his treatment.

The importance of integrated treatment

To solve this issue, our first goal is to consider a child’s treatment as a whole and ensure that each treatment is connected to one another. The overall focus should be on the function of his entire body, rather than on a single area such as his head or limbs. With every part of the body working together as one unit, it is important to develop a child’s control of his trunk or torso which also stimulates blood circulation and the transport of nutrients to the brain. When the trunk’s function is developed and a child can support the weight of his head and limbs, he will then be able to improve his condition and better respond to what he is being taught in each of his treatments.

These improvements will definitely make a difference in every aspect of your child’s life as he continues to progress in each of his therapies. Of course, we need to realize that speech language should not simply be about trying to get a child to communicate, and occupational therapy isn’t only for getting a child to learn fine motor skills. Everything is considered as a part of a whole–and for these reasons, each individual session will be able to gradually build on each of his achievements. Furthermore, by continuing a child’s treatment at home and incorporating it into his daily activities, your child will be able to reinforce the skills he learns and achieve more as a part of his everyday function.

Teaching normal function: The 3 W’s

Of course, for us to build on this improvement, we need to remember that a child’s development is an ongoing process. As mentioned above, ultimately our goal is not specifically to teach motor or sensorial function–it is to teach a child to function independently, and encourage him to touch, interact, communicate and discover the world around him. The body is a tool which facilitates this interaction, and this process is something which goes on for every second of his life. As a parent, caregiver, family member or therapist, our work continues as long as he continues to learn.

To help you with this process, I recommend that you use 3 W’s: watch, wait, and win. By watch, I mean that you should observe what and how your child is doing, such as what he likes and doesn’t like. By wait, I mean that you should be patient, explain something, show the child how it is done, describe the process, and proceed with the movement or task. The last step is win: as he progresses, the task is accomplished, and soon a child can perform the task independently.

By understanding and following these steps, you will be surprised at just how much your child can accomplish. As he learns, you will learn a lot about your child as well, and be able to see just how successful he can be.

If you have any questions or comments, leave me a comment down below. Thank you!

Natan

About the author

Natan Gendelman has written 180 articles for Enabled Kids.

Natan Gendelman is licensed as a physical therapist in Russia and Israel. After moving to Canada, he was certified as a kinesiologist and osteopathy manual practitioner. Natan has more than 20 years of experience providing rehabilitation and treatment for conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, pediatric stroke and acquired brain injury. He is the founder and director of Health in Motion Rehabilitation, a Toronto-based clinic whose main objective is to teach their patients the independence necessary for success in their daily lives.

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