Occupational Therapy in the Treatment of Congenital Athetosis
FREDERIC B. HOUSE, M.D.
Section on Physical Medicine
RACHAEL J. MARTINY, B.A.
Occupational Therapist, Cleveland Rehabilitation Center
Congenital athetosis presents many problems that are best solved by occupational therapy technics. The athetoid child is handicapped not by the loss of motor nerves, as in the spastic type, but by excess purposeless movements superimposed upon the voluntary patterns. In addition he usually develops an increased tension in fixing muscles in an attempt o t stop excess motion. The basic motor patterns are frequently present. There may be a deficiency in the patterns which is usually learned by trial and error because the child finds experimentation difficult. The child may become discouraged and stop attempting movements. He may develop such abnormal patterns that some muscles become abnormally strong and others weak from disuse.
Occupational therapy attacks the problem in three different ways. It presents a psychological stimulus, interesting the child in his own improvement; it provides exercises for strengthening weakened muscles; it teaches the child self help and expression within his capacity.
Training of the athetoid is based on the principle that coordinated movement can be accomplished only for the relaxed state. The child is taught conscious relaxation followed by coordinated movement. He learns the principles in physical therapy and puts them into practice in occupational therapy. It is necessary, therefore, that these two be closely coordinated in the over-all treatment plan for the patient. In consultation with the physiatrist, the occupational therapist learns which part of the treatment she is to cover and how it fits into the entire plan for the patient.
One of the most satisfactory. . .