Once your child is well enough, rehabilitation should begin. Many people believe that children fully recover after stroke because their brain is still developing. It is more accurate to say that children are better at adapting to the effects of stroke.
A physiotherapist can help with movement problems such as weakness or paralysis, spasticity (a stiffness that develops in the muscles after stroke) or muscle spasms. The therapist will assess and design a programme to improve muscle strength (which can reduce the risk of spasticity) and movement. They might use equipment to help your child move more easily, like ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) and hand splints. If your child has spasticity, they may be given botulinum toxin (botox) to help reduce the tightness and stiffness in a group of muscles (not a recommended treatment in Scotland).
Occupational therapists often work closely with the physiotherapist. They will look at ways to help make daily living tasks such as tying shoelaces, getting dressed, eating food and using aids and adaptations easier.
Research shows that children tend to recover the ability to walk, though it can be more difficult to recover hand movement.
Encourage your child to use their affected limbs as much as possible to help recover movement. Repeating certain exercises can make a big difference.
Some children may also find it difficult to socialise and may be unwilling to talk. This is known as mutism.
Most children make significant improvements with their speech within the first year.
A speech and language therapist (SLT) can help by assessing and designing a programme to improve strengths and weaknesses in communication. If your child has severe speech problems, other modes of communication such as signing can be used. It is also a good idea to look into communication devices to assist with speech.
Stroke can also affect a childs behaviour and their emotions. Many parents feel that their childs behaviour changed after the stroke and can find it difficult to cope.
Research has shown that children with hemiplegia (paralysis on one side) are more likely to experience behavioural changes. These changes in behaviour can also occur over time. As your child ages they may become more aware of the differences between them and other children. Problems with learning and participating in school may highlight problems that they have, which can be difficult to accept. Coping with the physical changes in their body can also be challenging.
Being aware of the emotional impact of stroke will help you identify any problems. It may take several years for your child to adjust to the effects of their stroke; adolescence in particular can be a difficult time. A psychologist can help assess and treat emotional problems, especially if their behaviour is affecting home and school life. Talking therapies may help your child understand why they feel the way they do.
Your child may have difficulty with learning and concentrating, spatial awareness and language (called cognitive skills). A psychologist can assess your childs cognitive ability and make recommendations to help support your child at home and at school. As your child develops, their abilities will change – follow up assessments will help identify any future problems.