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In the case of a child with hemiplegia, the specific aim of
physiotherapy will be to make them as physically two-sided as
possible. The physiotherapist may work on such things as balance,
weight bearing on the affected side, and developing sensitivity in
the affected hand.
Your child's limbs may tend towards spasticity (increased muscle
tone i.e. over-tightening of muscles), so the therapist will spend
a lot of time stretching them. While your child is still very
young, much of the therapy will be a question of doing things to
them; as they grow, they will be encouraged to take a more active
part in it themselves.
Of course, for maximum benefit the exercises that the
physiotherapist does with your child need to be practised every
day. An important part of their task is to teach you to do them at
home, and also to integrate therapy techniques into everyday
activities. You might, for example, encourage your child to reach
with their affected hand when you are passing them toys or food, or
remind them to use both hands when appropriate - holding a beaker,
Progress may seem slow, and you and your child will both get
sick of the phrase 'both hands, please'! Try not to feel guilty if
you seem to be getting nowhere - too much pushing can be
counterproductive, and your child will work out for themselves
whether a skill is useful or not.
Treatment may also include hydrotherapy (therapy in a special
pool), since it is easier to exercise stiffer limbs in warm
The physiotherapist will also advise on special shoes or boots,
or splints to help with standing and walking or with hand position.
They can also tell you about specially-adapted bikes and trikes.
Find out more about aids and equipment.
As your child grows older, they will increasingly prefer an
alternative approach to physiotherapy, based on activities they
enjoy. Read more about this in
A Second Bite at the Cherry: an article on alternative approaches
to physiotherapy by physiotherapist David Scrutton.
As children grow they acquire all sorts of practical skills.
They learn self-help skills such as feeding and dressing
themselves, using the potty and the toilet.