This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatrician. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
For any content issues please Contact Us.
Cerebral palsy treatment requires a full team of specialists to optimize care. The team typically consists of pediatricians, therapists, dieticians, behavior specialists, educators, dieticians, and geneticists. Keep in mind, however, that each child is different and you should work with their pediatrician to determine which specialists are needed.
Cerebral Palsy Pediatricians
A child’s pediatrician will be the primary healthcare provider for cerebral palsy. Pediatricians are responsible for well-care visits, as well as observing signs in the child that necessitate additional medical care, such as any physical developmental disabilities.
Along with watching for developmental disabilities, a pediatrician will typically watch for signs of nutrition issues and behavioral, and make referrals to the appropriate healthcare professionals.
For example, the pediatrician may refer the child to a pediatric neurologist or physical medicine and rehabilitation physician.
Cerebral Palsy Therapists
There are a variety of therapists who specialize in different types of therapies. These include, in part, physical therapists and occupational therapists.
A physical therapist helps children with muscle tone, balance, coordination, movement, balance, strength, and flexibility.  A physical therapist can also help children with pain management and overall health.
The ultimate goal of physical therapy is to help the child overcome physical limitations while expanding the range of joint motion and increasing capabilities in order to lead a more independent life.
Children with all types of cerebral palsy can potentially benefit from cerebral palsy. A physical therapist will typically create a specialized plan for each child and base activities on the severity and the type of cerebral palsy the child has.
An occupational therapist can also be included in a child’s treatment plan and is often recommended by pediatricians. Occupational therapists help children develop skills that can assist them in being more independent, such as bathing, eating, brushing their teeth, and other day-to-day activities.
According to the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, “occupational therapy (OT) for cerebral palsy focuses on the development of skills necessary for the performance of activities of daily living.” 
Keep in mind that both physical therapy and occupational therapy sessions will vary depending on the severity of the child’s cerebral palsy.
Children with severe cerebral palsy who aren’t able to do basic tasks on their own may benefit from occupational therapists. The occupational therapist can teach the child how to communicate with family members through different means, such as finger movements and eye movements on electronic devices.
Cerebral Palsy Behavioral Specialists
Behavioral and learning specialists are trained to evaluate and help with behavioral and emotional issues.
Children with cerebral palsy may face a number of delays in connection with both learning and behavior. Emotional outbursts and/or difficulties in expressing proper responses to stress are common among many children with CP.
Learning disabilities, seizures, communication difficulties, a stressful environment, and comorbid conditions all contribute to an increased chance that a child will have behavioral problems.
The most common ways in which behavior specialists assist children can include the following:
- How to manage emotions and emotional outbursts
- Coping skills
- Anxiety reduction
- Depression treatment
- How to resolve conflicts
- How to delay gratification
- How to develop friendships
Cerebral Palsy Speech Specialists
Communication skills are an important part of living with cerebral palsy, and speech specialists work to improve the child’s communication with family and peers.
Speech specialists, also referred to as speech therapists or speech pathologists, work with associated conditions that prevent a child from communicating effectively, such as aphasia, dysphasia, stuttering, pitch issues, and more.
Speech specialists can also work with non-verbal children, and focus on signs, gestures, symbols, and touching. Some specialists teach non-verbal children how to effectively use a picture board for communication.
Studies indicate that speech therapy can be the most helpful when issues are found early in life.
“If we identify children with cerebral palsy as young as 24 to 30 months who are very likely to have significant language problems later in life, we may be able to change or improve the course of their development through very early speech-language therapy,” lead author of a study carried out on speech therapy, Katherine Hustad, said.
The study, which was published in the Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology journal, indicates that the language comprehension skills of children with CP can help predict language skills that will be used later in life.
In turn, “appropriate speech and language intervention” can potentially help. 
Neurologists and Cerebral Palsy
Neurology specialists, also known as neurologists, assist in determining brain damage and if the child’s brain is sending correct signals to the body. Neurologists also use imaging tests to determine the type of cerebral palsy a child has and how severe it is.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, neurologists can determine the type of treatment a child needs. Common treatments include baclofen, electrical stimulation, and Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR). 
Specialists at School
When children with cerebral palsy start school, they are likely to be entitled to special education assistance. Children needing special education assistance can have services provided via an Individual Education Plan or IEP. The IEP utilizes a team-based approach to determine optimal services. The IEP team usually meets on a yearly basis to monitor progress
Special education provides numerous services to school-aged children, including learning disability assistance, wheelchair ramps at school, school counseling and therapy, assistive technology, and assistive technology learning.
For more information on your child’s special education rights, speak with your child’s guidance counselor or principal. Make sure to request details on each type of service offered at your child’s school, along with the qualifications needed.
Other Cerebral Palsy Specialists
Depending on the child’s individual needs, other specialists may be needed for overall treatment goals, which can include the following:
- Play therapy specialists
- Rehabilitation medicine specialists
- Aqua therapists
- Massage therapists
- Horse therapy (for behavioral and/or emotional issues)
How to Find Cerebral Palsy Specialists
To help build your child’s treatment team, remember to start with your child’s primary doctor. A pediatrician can usually provide you information for specialists within your area. In addition, a pediatrician may be able to tell you which specialists are covered by your insurance provider or which specialists are within your price range.
- Evidence-based approach to physical therapy in cerebral palsy. (2019, January). U.S. Nation Institutes of Health. PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6394183/
- A review of therapeutic intervention research on gross and fine motor progress in young children with cerebral palsy | American Journal of occupational therapy. (2020, April 30). American Journal of Occupational Therapy.
Retrieved from: https://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=1886247
- Study offers first look at how children with cerebral palsy develop language skills. (2018, June 4). News | UW-Madison
Retrieved from: https://news.wisc.edu/study-offers-first-look-at-how-children-with-cerebral-palsy-develop-language-skills/
- Cerebral palsy | Johns Hopkins Department of neurology and neurosurgery. (2019, November 19). Johns Hopkins Medicine, based in Baltimore, Maryland.
Retrieved from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/pediatric_neurosurgery/conditions/cerebral_palsy.html