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Utilization of Physical Therapy Services During Transition for Young People With Cerebral Palsy: A Call for Improved Care Into Adulthood

Journal title
Physical therapy
Publication year
Liljenquist, K.; O'Neil, M. E.; Bjornson, K. F.

Background: Many young adults with cerebral palsy (CP) face limited participation in activities, including employment and independent living. Physical therapy during the transition period can help to support participation through promotion of self-care, ambulation, and functional mobility. Thus, ensuring appropriate access to physical therapy services for young people who can benefit from them before, during, and after transition is imperative. Objective: The objective of this study was to identify factors contributing to the utilization of physical therapy services for youth with CP both during and after secondary school. Design: The design was a deidentified secondary analysis of the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 (NLTS2). Methods: Multivariate regression models were run to examine demographic and disability characteristics influencing utilization of physical therapy services for youth with CP both during and after secondary school. Results: The total weighted population sample included 35,290 young people with CP. When all youth were in secondary school, 59.4% of the youth utilized physical therapy services; however, once all youth were out of school, only 33.7% of them were reported to have utilized physical therapy since leaving secondary school. For young people with difficulties accessing general disability support services, demographic characteristics, including sex, race, income, and parent education status, influenced use of physical therapy services in addition to disability characteristics. Limitations: This population sample included only young people in special education with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and may not generalize to young people with CP in general education settings. Conclusions: Frequency of physical therapy services decreases drastically once young adults with CP leave secondary school. Future work should examine this trend in more depth to identify therapy intervention strategies to optimize participation in young adult life for persons with CP.

Research abstracts