Participation in the arts are a way for someone to express themselves. It creates a window into the soul and an escape all in one. Some turn to painting, drawing, music, drama, or dancing to find their sense of self or to relieve stress after a long day, and this is no different for kids and adults with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Taking part in the arts is a wonderful thing for children with CP to do, no matter their level of disability, and here’s why!


Self Expression Without Limits

The arts allow for a place to explore what you are thinking or feeling. Whether you are verbal or non-verbal, participation in an art form is a way to get your feelings out! Society often tries to put us in boxes that may make us feel limited. But when you are creating art, you get to make the rules. Bend the rules to work for you

Adaptability

With the free form nature of many arts programs there are no rules that have to be adjusted to make it work for your body. If your dancing includes, moving your head side to side to make your wheelchair turn to the right and the left, do it! If you need something to secure a paint brush to one of your hands or to your head to paint your beautiful picture, why not! It’s your masterpiece, so the environment can be set up to make creating your art that much easier.

Community OR Solitary Art

Many arts are performed in a group setting for those who love being social, like Drama. You can find your Drama, Dance, or Visual Arts community if that floats your boat. BUT the cool thing about the arts is many forms don’t have to be done in a group, they can be done alone too if you’d prefer to work that way.

Confidence Booster

For many kids and adults, taking part in the creation of something beautiful, or something they made themselves, is a huge confidence booster. When the right adaptations are in place to support each child or adult, either with motor or intellectual considerations, the child can make something by themselves (or with a little bit of teamwork if needed) and feel proud of themselves for doing so!

Types of Art

Visual Arts

  • Visual arts include painting, drawing, sculpture and photography, are likely to be the most common of all arts programs designed for people with disabilities.
  • The visual arts are easily modified. A child’s pointer finger, pencils, and brushes can all be adapted to fit their needs by instructors or parents. The most common forms of modifications are handles and grips on paint brushes, pencils and pens; easels that can be attached to a wheelchair or placed on a table. There are even attachments designed for the head in which the artist can manipulate the brush, just as is used on a pointer for the computer.
  • Photography can also be modified to meet various physical needs. Cameras can be attached to wheelchairs so they can remain stable while a person is shooting a photo. It might require some creative thinking, but if the photographer cannot use their fingers, cameras can be placed in such a way that a student can use their tongue to release the shutter.

Dance

  • When many people think of dance, they picture the ballerina trope, but that’s not all dance is, in fact, there are so many styles of dance! This includes modern, ballet, tap, and jazz. In the past years, dance has become so much more freeform than people think. With the dawn of modern dance and creative movement, movement can be whatever you want! The creation of movement is often left up to the dancer OR to the choreographer
  • Movement can be created in many ways. Students in wheelchairs can be pushed by a fellow dancer while they dance in their chair or other times can push themselves in a pattern as part of the choreography. Students can use their crutches or walkers to move, participate in floor mobility, and show off their specific mobility strengths. Choreographers can play into this as well, creating routines that maximize each dancer’s strengths.
  • As Dance is very aerobic, it also provides an outlet to work on mobility, strength, and develop flexibility. It can help those moving to stay fit and healthy. It can also help children with CP work on coordination and balance!

Drama

  • Theater programs for disabled actors provide opportunities to show off their talent. Often, modifications are made to shows that make the performance accessible to actors with disabilities. There are troupes of performers with disabilities as well as productions who participate in inclusive casting. 
  • Theater is often all about building community and putting yourself out there, and for many regardless of mobility status, gives actors the chance to put on a second skin. When you are acting as another person, you get to leave your own troubles behind and step into that person’s life and mind for a few hours. This can be a great escape for anyone, including children and adults with a disability.

Music

  • Music is another way that children and adults with CP can creatively express themselves and can be a great stress reliever. Music, like the other artistic forms discussed above, can be followed, but it can also be created! A child with CP can participate in a piece of music though percussive instruments, can learn to strum the strings of a guitar, and others too. 
  • Music therapy is a great outlet to explore as it not only allows for creative expression but also works on rhythm and timing, social skills, language, and mobility!

But where is there to go in NJ for my child with CP to participate in the arts? Check out these links to find out more!

Dance:

http://kayelynndance.com/chance-to-dance/

http://www.danceinnovations.org/dipf

http://kayelynndance.com/chance-to-dance/

http://www.danceinnovations.org/dipf

Theater:

https://papermill.org/access-for-all

Art: 

https://www.tasoc.org/

Music:

https://www.theconnectiononline.org/com

https://jamminjenn.com

References:

https://www.cerebralpalsy.org/information/activities/arts

https://www.cerebral-palsy-faq.org/art-exhibit-highlights-skills-of-children-with-cerebral-palsy.html#:~:text=Art%20therapy%20stimulates%20expression%20and,intelligibility%20due%20to%20cerebral%20palsy.

The child in utero is curled up tight to fit in such a tight space.  If a baby’s neck is tilted, it is visually obvious to the parent and pediatrician.  If they have asymmetry elsewhere the observations may be more subtle.  It may be harder to put one arm in the onesie, the child may prefer to play with toys on one side, or the child may crawl with one leg dragging behind.  Read more

NDT is a problem-solving approach used by physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists to improve the abilities of child and adults with nervous system pathologies face during their daily lives. It is not a prescribed series of techniques, but a dynamic approach to planning and implementing treatment. Read more

“I watched a remarkable, quiet, tearless session…that ended with his body and head in midline. No neck stretching!! No stretching of any kind!  It’s particularly appealing in that parents get to hug and hold their children and get changes…without imposing any demands.”
Billi Cusick’s PT, MS, COF

Torticollis is a term used when a baby tends to keep their head tilted or turned to one side. The most common type of torticollis in children in Congenital Muscular Torticollis. The head is positioned in various degrees of tilt to one side and then rotation to the opposite side.Evidence-Based Care Guideline for Management of Congenital Muscular Torticollis in children age 0 to 36 months describes the traditional approach to torticollis treatment, which includes stretching, positioning, and active movement on the weaker side.  The guideline does include assessing the full body, but treatment of these findings is not specifically recommended.  Traditionally, the therapist will assess the full body, but then treat the neck in isolation because this is the most visible and obvious problem area.

The TMR approach to torticollis addresses the body as a WHOLE.  Eliminate imbalances in the larger muscles to allow the tiny neck muscles to do their job spontaneously.  Its like a potted plant growing crooked.  We don’t stretch the leaves or the little stems.  We repot the roots so that the plant can grow straight.  Our visual and balance systems will automatically bring the head to the middle once we help balance out our roots, which in the body is the pelvis.

Some red flags that parents may notice outside of the head position or turning preference is that it may be harder to put one arm in the shirt when dressing, the baby always rolls to one side, or the baby learning to sit always falls in the same direction.  Some other signs are bottom scooting rather than crawling on hands and knees, cruising along the couch in only one direction, and walking with one foot turned out.

Parents are taught how to do positioning and play at home that comfortably releases the bodies restrictions. They are also taught how to monitor their child’s movement patterns over time, so that if asymmetries increase while a child is learning a new skill, they will know how to address it.

Curious if this tearless appropach may be best for you and your baby?  Call us to set up a screening at 908-543-4390.

A Dad asked me today if it was okay that his almost 2 year-old was walking on her tiptoes. His 5 year-old daughter also walks on her toes, but she has cerebral palsy, and has gone through years of botox injections and wearing orthotics to help her to stand on flat feet and to maintain the flexibility of her calves.  Read more

Re-posted from OUR Journey Thru Autism

“I’m doing it! I’m doing it!” yells an exuberant 8 year-old boy as he rides away from me on his bike. This young boy has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and dyspraxia and was so frightened to just sit on his bike with training wheels 4 months ago that he held on to me for dear life. Today he rides away from me on a two-wheeled bike on his own and tomorrow he will ride with his brother through the neighborhood. Read more

Playdough can be a great tool to strengthen the hands and for imaginary play.  It can also be a great tool for increasing sensory awareness of the feet.  It can also be used to challenge balance in standing like in this video, or it can be done in sitting too.  Have fun trying it out!

I just came from the house of an adorable 10 month old girl who I see through early intervention. She has been an amazing example of how quickly a child with an intact neurological system can learn new skills. This little girl had a rough start medically, but is now very healthy. With the medical concerns stabilized, her family was very concerned about her from a developmental perspective. When I started with her a couple of months ago she was barely sitting. Today she was crawling, cruising, and pulling to stand beautifully! She is now doing what other children her age are doing and is taking off. Read more

The following is an essay that a mom of one of my soon-to-be-discharged early intervention kiddos wrote for a contest through the NJ Early Intervention program. Not only did she win the contest (yay!), but it conveys to parents the hope that early intervention can bring to a family and the difference that therapy early on can make in a child’s life.

If I had to sum up in one word what The NJ Early Intervention System has meant to our family, its hope. When our youngest son Jonathan was born prematurely and soon after found to have hypotonia and both fine and gross motor delays we were so worried. What did this mean for his future? Would he ever catch up? What could we do to help him? So many concerns ran through our minds initially and then as we began our relationship with the early intervention program we began to find some answers and more importantly we began to find some hope. Read more

As a pediatric physical therapist specializing in developmental disabilities, I have worked with a lot of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) over the past 10 years. After several months of physical therapy, I frequently saw how related areas of development, such as communication and social skills, would improve after addressing their motor deficits. Read more