Current Rehabilitation Practices for Children with Cerebral Palsy: Focus and Gaps

Phys Occup Ther Pediatr. 2017 Feb;37(1):1-15. doi: 10.3109/01942638.2015.1126880. Epub 2016 Feb 11.


Aims: To describe the focus of therapy practices in occupational and physical therapy for school-aged children with cerebral palsy, and better understand whether it is congruent with recommended practices.

Methods: A Canada-wide Web-based survey was completed by 62 occupational and 61 physical therapists to identify problems, assessments, and treatment interventions for two case-based scenarios. Data were coded using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) definitions for "body functions and structure," "activity and participation," and "environment."

Results: Physical therapists, in comparison to occupational therapists, were more likely to select interventions classed in the "body functions and structure" category (34-42% and 18-20%, respectively). Both professions focused on "activity and participation" (34-61%) when identifying problems, assessing, and intervening; attention, however, was mainly directed towards task-oriented activities such as activities of daily living and mobility. Participation in leisure or community-based activities received less attention (2-15%). The environment received limited attention for problems and assessments (4-25%), though it was an important focus of intervention (19-37%).

Conclusions: While body functions and structure are well-addressed, other ICF elements, specifically participation, are poorly integrated into practice. The emerging focus on the environment in therapy intervention, by modifying the context rather than changing aspects of the child, is consistent with current approaches and evidence. Knowledge translation implementation initiatives are recommended to bridge identified gaps.

Keywords: Cerebral palsy; focus of intervention; occupational therapy; pediatrics; physical therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Architectural Accessibility
  • Canada
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Palsy / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Movement / physiology
  • Occupational Therapy / methods*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Self-Help Devices
  • Social Participation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires