Do you have a child with cerebral palsy (CP) or a neurological condition? If so, they may be an excellent candidate for the TheraSuit Method which is like a “suit” a child wears to help their posture, muscle tone, and movement.
Through the foundation I founded with my sister called The LENN Foundation, we’ve seen many kiddos with motor delays use the “Therasuit” during intensive therapy sessions. Our foundation provides grants to kiddos with cerebral palsy to receive intensive therapies.
Let’s explore the TheraSuit Method in further detail…
- What it is
- How it works
- Benefits and MORE …
I can attest this is one therapy treatment we’ve seen help a child’s posture and balance. Now let’s dive in!
First, What Is Intensive Suit Therapy?
Intensive Suit Therapy is a treatment incorporated to help the brain retrain the Central Nervous System (CNS).
Meaning your brain fires off “signals” to improve and restore the proper body movements and other physical challenges associated with your neurological health condition.
What Is A TheraSuit?
During a suit therapy session, a child wears a “TheraSuit” which is similar to wearing a modified space suit (1).
The suit’s idea was originally derived from the cosmonaut’s suit invented by the Russian Center for Aeronautical and Space Medicine in the late 1960s (2).
It is a bright-colored orthotic suit designed with adjustable bungee cords. These cords are strategically placed to help guide the body into a more vertical position.
The TheraSuit includes a hat, knee pad, and a pair of specially designed therapeutic shoes to be worn during sessions.
The TheraSuit is a part of the TheraSuit Method, which is used during intensive physical therapy training.
How The TheraSuit Method Came About
The parents of Kaya, born at 28 weeks, were physical therapists. As soon as Kaya became medically stable, the parents began early intervention and traveled to Europe to try a new therapy utilizing an older version of the “space suit” to help Kaya’s motor skills.
It was during that first therapy session, Kaya took her FIRST steps. The parents were blown away and knew they had to bring this method to the United States, hence how the TheraSuit method came about in 2001.
It was the first suit in the U.S. used to rehab neurological and sensory disorders.
When you wear the TheraSuit, studies show you achieve faster and higher functional results.
How It Works
The suit is designed to provide the right pressure and support to the affected muscle groups and joints to adjust in accordance with your body’s movement.
It is made to ensure the body is correctly aligned with the abnormal muscle movements in addition to helping the brain recognize and initiate the CORRECT muscle movements.
The TheraSuite accelerates functional progress to help a child achieve better results in a shorter period of time.
In addition to the suit uniform, are adjustable rings and cords to keep you stable. It provides support and pressure on your body while you exercise to strengthen muscle tone.
The goal is to help you perform the physical activities that require the movement of your major muscle groups such as your chest, arms, back, legs, shoulders, and stomach.
It is important to keep in mind the suit does not work naturally on its own by wearing it. You have to do the necessary exercises and movements recommended by your physical therapist.
The exercises incorporated during the intensive suit therapy sessions are made to rebuild the connections with your central nervous system (CNS).
The TheraSuit works to restore Central Nervous System (CNS) function by providing both tactile stimulation and pressure over the entire body.
This is also why it also helps drastically with sensory integration challenges.
Suit Therapy Equipment and Exercises
While doing the TheraSuit Method, safety is a MUST so universal units known as monkey cages or spider cages are used as added protection and support while exercising.
The unit consists of cables, pulleys, and weights to facilitate various rehabilitation techniques to isolate movements and strengthen the muscles.
The cage acts as “extra hands” to help a physical therapist work solo on various activities with a child that would normally take two or three therapists to do (3).
During the suit therapy sessions, a PT focuses on a wide range of exercises depending on the child’s needs to improve:
- Gross motor skills (standing, walking, etc.)
- Muscle tone and strength
- Flexibility, balance, and coordination
- Sensory integration
- Proper movement patterns and body alignment
Now that you know how the TheraSuit Method works, next, let’s cover how to know if your child needs suit therapy.
Is Your Child A Good Candidate For Suit Therapy?
First, check with your pediatrician or healthcare provider to find out if your child is a good candidate for suit therapy.
This type of therapy treatment is not recommended for all kids who have cerebral palsy or a neurological health condition.
For instance, if your child has any of the following conditions below, they will most likely not be able to participate in suit therapy:
- Kidney problems
- Uncontrolled seizures
- Hip subluxation that is less than 50%
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Recent surgeries
On the other hand, here are some conditions that benefit the most from suit therapy.
- Parkinson disease
- Chromosomal disorders
- Autism Spectrum disorder
- Near Drowning accidents
- Post-stroke (CVA)
- Incomplete spinal cord injury
- Cerebral palsy
- Global developmental delays
- Traumatic brain injury
- Any other neurological impairment
Speaking of benefits, let’s dive into that next.
Suit Therapy Benefits
After several weeks of intensive therapy treatment wearing the suit, a child may develop the following benefits:
- Improved hip alignment
- Develop fine and gross motor skills
- Loosen tight muscles to improve body movements
- Enhance speech skills and fluency through the trunk and head control
- Strengthen weak muscles and provide resistance to enhance muscle toning
- Potentially eliminate the need for surgeries which could be costly
- Helps those with cerebral palsy, neurological health conditions, or those who have experienced a stroke or brain injury improve posture, muscle tone, and movement
- Live an all-out better quality of life
- Improve bone density with the “intensive” therapy exercise movements
- Reinforce proper movement skills like walking, balancing, and coordination
What age should my child start?
A child of any age can start intensive suit therapy treatment. Generally, the age to begin is 3 years old and up. Kids who are toddlers and older benefit the most from intensive suit therapy treatment because they are able to wear the vest and shorts portion of the suit.
Where do I go for suit therapy?
Check your nearest physical therapy center to see if they offer suit therapy. If they do not, then ask if they know of a facility near you that does. You can also check out our list of intensive therapy clinics to see if there is one near you that offers this type of therapy.
Who does intensive suit therapy?
Intensive suit therapy treatment is only offered at a physical therapy center. The therapy treatment is generally done by a certified and licensed physical therapist OR a suit therapy practitioner who participates in training programs offered by the organization that manufactures the suit.
To Wrap It Up
Intensive suit therapy is an alternative treatment to help improve muscle tone, movement, and posture. This type of therapy, done early in a child’s development, can greatly enhance their quality of life because it may help to:
- Eliminate the need for unnecessary surgeries
- Apply beneficial pressure to joints and muscles
- Improve body posture
- Strengthen muscles
- Helps sensory processing disorders
- Support neurological health conditions like cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or autism
- Retrain the central nervous system
At the end of a suit therapy program, the therapist should provide you with resources like different activities and exercises you can do with your child at home. As a parent or caretaker, you play an important role in your child’s success. You are their greatest advocate. 🙂
Until the next post, I’m sending you all the positive parenting vibes!
Do you have anything to add or share about the TheraSuit Method? Let me know in the comments below. Your input means a lot and helps other fellow parents who read this post.
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- Izabela Koscielny (2004). Treatment Method TheraSuit Soft Dynamic Proprioceptive Orthotic. Cerebral Palsy Magazine.
- Gina Jansheski, M.D. (2022). Cerebral Palsy and Intensive Suit Therapy. Cerebral Palsy Guidance.
- How Does The TheraSuit Method Work? The Oxford Center.
About The Author
Linds is the proud mom of two little miracles, Mono Mono twin girls, and one AMAZING older brother! She is the founder and content creator of Mono Mono Twins, Intensive Therapy for Kids, and Co-Founder of The LENN Foundation, a 510c3 that helps children across the United States with cerebral palsy receive grants for intensive therapies to thrive. ♥
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