Project improves self-control for people with cerebral palsy

A research project at the University of Copenhagen has used an intervention strategy to strengthen the self-control of people with cerebral palsy.

The project challenged the assumptions people with cerebral palsy (CP) had about their own limitations. It included collaboration among patients, families, psychologists, neurologists and others.

“In order to help persons with cerebral palsy, we need to fully understand what it means to live with a congenital brain damage. What I have tried to do is to involve everyone who is somehow affected by or has a professional stake in cerebral palsy in order to arrive at an all-encompassing understanding of the problem and to avoid the current lack of communication between researchers and professional,” Kristian Martiny, post-doctoral student at the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen, said in a press release.

Martiny developed an intervention for people with CP based on interviews with participants about their bodily experiences.

“We put the CP patients through an extremely challenging social camp that involved a skiing trip. During the trip, their mental and physical limits were tested and stretched, and they realized they were capable of much more than they thought,” Martiny said. This is crucial because apart from the brain damage that often causes motor and speech control issues, many CP patients tend to have a negative self-image.”

Martiny said the project included “ordinary people” because the reactions people with cerebral palsy receive from others can affect their feelings of otherness. For this reason, Martiny included audiences for a theatre production and a documentary in the project. Both the play and documentary focused on a person with cerebral palsy.

“Before the play was performed, we picked 15 people at random to act as a focus group. They were interviewed just as thoroughly as the CP patients and underwent psychological testing before and after the performance,” Martiny said. “During the performance, they were asked to answer questions about how they perceived [the protagonist with cerebral palsy] and his situation, and we can see that people respond differently to a play than to traditional types of research communication — the play clearly had a positive effect on the members of the focus group who gradually began to see things from [the protagonist’s] point of view and not least see him as an individual they could identify with rather than as a disabled person.”

Reference: Martiny KMM. Embodying investigations of cerebral palsy: A case of open cognitive science. 2015; Københavns Universitet, Det Humanistiske Fakultet.

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