Because the symptoms of cerebral palsy can cause behavioral and emotional problems, many children benefit from counseling or behavior therapy. Behavioral therapy utilizes psychological techniques to improve physical, mental, and communicative skills. The activities used vary greatly according to age and disability. Some techniques will be used to discourage destructive behavior, others to encourage self-sufficiency. Ultimately, a behavioral therapist will act as a coach to patient and family, suggesting ways to improve behavior, as most of the work will be done in the home.
Behavioral therapy can complement physical therapy, employing psychological techniques that encourage the mastery of tasks that promote muscular and motor development. Praise, positive reinforcement, and small rewards can encourage a child to learn to use weak limbs, overcome speech deficits, and stop negative behaviors like hair pulling and biting.
Living with a disability, no matter what the severity, can feel like a limitation to the disabled person. It is for this reason that people, especially children who are subjected to the limitations of a disability from early on in life, can at times develop negative behavioral traits that may further affect the person’s ability to live life fruitfully and independently. It is in such conditions, in which the person’s quality of life is being effected or they are affecting the environment around them that behavioral therapy can be so valuable Even in situations where no such personality traits have surfaced, behavioral therapy is an important part of a child’s ongoing therapeutic schedule.
In cases involving behavioral therapy, at times also known as psychotherapy, the child with cerebral palsy will undergo treatment aimed at helping them not only become more independent and productive, but also more able to function in every-day life. In these ways, behavioral therapy is similar to other forms of CP therapy, however behavioral therapy tends to be more subtle in its approach.
For instance, in physical therapy the therapist will help the child to learn to walk with more ease by walking with them, or pick things up with more ease while helping their muscles develop, while in behavioral therapy the therapist might put an object of interest, perhaps a toy or a piece of candy, into a box. They will then request that the cerebral palsied child reach into the box with his or her weaker hand. It is the reward aspect of coaching the child to use his or her weaker hand that connects with his or her psyche.
In addition to helping a child physically using psychological practices, a behavioral therapist will also talk with his or her patient to help work through the emotional stresses that cerebral palsy can place on a child. Sometimes children with cerebral palsy can become violent or aggressive, resorting to things such as biting or hair-pulling to help release their anger. It is the job of the behavioral therapist to help the child find new ways to release their aggression and frustrations, either vocally or, if the child is able to control his or her hand enough, perhaps drawing or writing, with the aid of new computer technology that makes it possible for people with cerebral palsy to type and have full use of a computer.
In areas where a behavioral therapist is not completely adequate in helping your child with his or her emotional stresses, counseling is not only suggested, but encouraged. Whether or not your child attends behavioral therapy, counseling is invaluable in helping your child’s developmental progress. Counselors will be able to help your child see his or her situation in the best light, and hopefully help to alleviate many of the stresses cerebral palsy and cause a person to feel.
Regardless of advancements in technology, a behavioral therapist can have a profound impact on your child’s life. Because cerebral palsy can so greatly affect a child’s physical ability, one may become last in dealing with only the physical aspect. It is most important, however, to not forgo such important therapy for a child’s psychological health and development.