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Creating Good HABITs in Cerebral Palsy Therapy

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Creating Good HABITs in Cerebral Palsy Therapy

This summer camper tested a new therapy for a condition called hemiplegia, or paralysis on one side of the body, called Hand-Arm Bimanual Intensive Therapy (HABIT).

Researchers at TC’s Center for Cerebral Palsy Research turned the 10th floor of Thorndike Hall into a day camp this past summer in order to test a new therapy for a condition called hemiplegia, or paralysis on one side of the body.

The 10 willing subjects of the test, five-to-ten-year-olds who have the condition, spent six hours a day with TC Professor of Movement Sciences Andrew Gordon and 12 assistants, playing games and doing exercises ranging from tossing balls, molding and cutting modeling clay, stringing beads and playing board games, to the hands-down favorite: playing baseball, bowling or tennis on a Nintendo Wii.

The new treatment, called Hand-Arm Bimanual Intensive Therapy (HABIT), embeds in those games a series of activities requiring coordinated use of both hands while emphasizing intensive practice with the paralyzed hand and arm. It improves on the old method of treatment, which involved restricting the use of the non-paralyzed arm with a cast, soft sling or bandage while at the same time engaging it in a series of repeated tasks of increasing complexity. Gordon and his team helped develop both treatments, but noticed that the earlier one led to children having difficulty with coordination.

Eventually HABIT could also be applicable to people who have suffered strokes or traumatic brain injuries. “Ultimately we want to enable kids with cerebral palsy to participate in more types of physical activity,” Gordon says. “Right now, most of these kids would probably be pulled from many activities in a normal gym class. But with the proper therapy, they might even be able to play sports.”

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