When caring for a child with cerebral palsy, there are a few things you should always keep in mind.
Everyone experiences cerebral palsy differently.
It can range from mild to severe, affect different areas of the body, and co-occur with various associative conditions.
Additionally, cerebral palsy does not define your child.
People with cerebral palsy are just like everyone else. They have aspirations and feelings that should not be undermined because of their motor disability.
Tips for Caring for a Child with Cerebral Palsy
This article will share 10 helpful tips to keep in mind when caring for a child with cerebral palsy.
Let’s get started!
1) Don’t Smother Your Child
Just because your child has cerebral palsy does not mean that they are fragile.
Cerebral palsy is widely misunderstood, and many children with cerebral palsy are capable of doing much more than others assume.
Treat your child as normally as possible. Try not to be over-protective or baby them.
They need opportunities to be independent and figure things out on their own to prove their abilities.
2) Be Patient
Cerebral palsy is a motor disability, meaning that it affects movement.
Moving with cerebral palsy requires more energy because the movements are more challenging to control.
Children with cerebral palsy are often very capable of performing tasks on their own but need to do it on their own time.
Cerebral palsy may slow your child down, but it shouldn’t stop them from trying.
3) Create Routine
Make a list of tasks that need to get done every day like brushing their teeth, getting dressed, bathing, and exercise.
Building routines will help your child develop healthy habits and become more independent.
4) Stay Alert for Associative Conditions
Although cerebral palsy is a motor disability, co-occurring associative conditions are common due to damage in other areas of the brain.
Frequently experienced associative conditions of cerebral palsy include:
- Cognitive Impairments
- Behavioral Problems
- Vision Impairments
- Hearing Impairments
- Sensory Problems
- Bowel and Bladder Problems
Being aware of associative conditions that may potentially arise will allow you to be more prepared.
The earlier you notice signs of associative conditions, the sooner its effects can be minimized.
5) Focus on Form Before Function
Many parents of children with cerebral palsy will encourage their child to walk as much as they can, even if they have an irregular gait pattern.
It’s important to focus on fixing the abnormal gait pattern before the child gets accustomed to walking with it.
The more they walk with the abnormal gait pattern, the more normal it will feel, and the harder it will be to replace.
Orthotics like casts and braces can help promote proper form and combat spasticity.
The more your child works on walking with correct form, the stronger the neural pathways in the brain for that movement will become, and the more comfortable it will feel to walk normally.
6) Prioritize a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is key for making sure that your child will grow at a healthy rate, develop strong bones, and stable energy levels throughout the day.
Some children with cerebral palsy will have impaired control over the muscles in the mouth area.
This makes it difficult for them to get enough nutrients and calories.
Therefore, nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods that don’t require a lot of chewing like peanut butter, olive oil, and avocadoes are ideal foods to include in a cerebral palsy diet.
7) Join a Cerebral Palsy Support Group
Joining a cerebral palsy support group will allow you to get to know other parents of kids with cerebral palsy.
You’ll get access to a bunch of free information, be able to share experiences, and make some new friends that understand what you’re going through.
8) Explore Lots of Different Activities
Your child’s motor disability should not stop them from finding their passions in life.
In fact, one of the most important things to understand about caring for a child with cerebral palsy is that their motor impairments can improve over time through the brain’s ability to rewire itself (neuroplasticity).
The more active your child is, the better their chances of improving motor functions are.
If your child is interested in sports, there are tons of adaptive sports that children with CP can learn to play.
These programs prioritize inclusion and will ensure that your child has the accommodations necessary to participate.
9) Be Positive
Positivity is contagious, so focus on the good.
You know how special your child is, so make sure that your child knows they have your unconditional love and support.
Children are highly influenced by their parents’ thoughts and actions, so highlight your child’s strengths and keep them focused on their abilities, not disability.
Caring for a Child with Cerebral Palsy Can Be Extremely Rewarding
Caring for a child with cerebral palsy teaches many people that what they think they know about cerebral palsy isn’t always true.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand that there is so much more to a person than their cerebral palsy.
By treating children with CP as normally as possible, you can encourage them to be the most confident and independent versions of themselves.
Featured image: ©iStock.com/SanneBerg