The younger your child is, the more difficult it will be to determine if they have a cerebral palsy learning disability.
Just because your child has cerebral palsy does not mean that he or she will have a learning disability.
Many cerebral palsy patients have completely normal intelligence and can learn perfectly fine.
How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect Learning?
Although learning disabilities are common among cerebral palsy patients, they’re also common among brain injuries in general.
Cerebral palsy does not directly cause learning disorders.
Rather, a learning disorder is an associative condition, which means it’s caused by a different brain injury, but commonly occurs in those with cerebral palsy.
The prevalence of learning difficulties in children with cerebral palsy is 1 in 2.
Cognitive function is the ability to learn, sense, and reason. Children with a cerebral palsy learning disability still have cognitive functioning; it’s just impaired.
This requires them to put in more time and effort when learning because it’s more difficult for them to process new skills.
Signs of a Cerebral Palsy Learning Disability
Because learning disabilities occur so frequently among children with cerebral palsy, it’s important to be on the lookout for signs indicating one.
A learning disability can range from mild to severe, so some parents don’t even realize their children have one until they get older.
Signs of a learning disability after cerebral palsy include:
- Delayed language skills
- Difficulties communicating or understanding others
- Trouble following directions
- Problems reading, writing, speaking, spelling, or counting
If you think your child might be displaying signs of a learning disability, don’t hesitate to get a professional evaluation.
Cerebral Palsy Learning Disability Therapies
Three professionals to seek when your child with cerebral palsy has a learning disability are:
- A speech therapist will help your child improve their communication skills so that they can better express when they do not understand something or need help.
- An occupational therapist will teach your child how to improve their fine motor skills in easy, efficient ways to reduce frustration.
- A behavioral therapist will help your child manage emotional problems like anger, anxiety, or depression that result from difficulties learning.
Activating Neuroplasticity to Reduce Learning Disabilities
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to rewire itself and adapt when necessary.
Throughout a person’s entire life, the brain is generating neurons and forming new pathways.
Identifying the specifics of your child’s learning disability will help determine what cognitive functions need to be improved.
With the right cognitive exercises and enough repetition, children with learning disabilities can rewire their brains to process information differently and reduce cognitive impairment.
Teaching Children with Cerebral Palsy Learning Difficulties
Teaching children with cerebral palsy requires you to get creative and be understanding.
You must take an individualized approach and really consider each child’s strengths and weaknesses.
Set realistic expectations and be patient. Unrealistic expectations will frustrate and discourage the child from learning.
Breaking up lessons into smaller points will help children grasp the concepts better. Too much information at once can be overwhelming. Don’t move forward until they are comfortable with the current lesson.
Students with cerebral palsy generally take longer to understand and respond, so provide ample time for them to finish their work and speak.
Be creative and test out various methods of teaching. If your student responds well to visual stimulation, use lots of pictures and diagrams. If your student is better at orally expressing themselves, focus more on discussions than writing.
The most important thing to keep in mind when teaching children with cerebral palsy is to engage the students. Ask for their feedback about how they feel and whether something is too easy or too difficult.
Final Thoughts About Cerebral Palsy and Learning Disabilities
Cerebral palsy is a motor disability that affects one’s ability to move.
It does not directly cause learning disabilities, but they do occur in nearly half the cases of cerebral palsy.
Promoting learning in children with cerebral palsy requires a lot of trial and error. What works for one child might not work for another, so you need to take an individualized approach and see what works best for each child.
Children with cerebral palsy can and will learn with proper support and resources. They just need the encouragement and time to learn at their own pace.