Wondering what the best actions a teacher can take to support a child with cerebral palsy in the classroom are?
We’ve put together a list of tips to help you better understand what cerebral palsy is and how it can affect communication, learning, and sociability in a school setting.
Let’s get started!
5 Things Every Teacher Should Know About Cerebral Palsy in the Classroom
If you’ve never had a student with cerebral palsy, you might feel overwhelmed and unprepared.
To calm your nerves and allow you to better understand what sorts of adjustments you may need to make in the classroom, here’s some helpful information.
1. Every Case of Cerebral Palsy is Unique
While all children with cerebral palsy will have motor impairments, the severity and locations of their motor impairments will vary from person to person.
Some will be able to walk independently, while others will need a wheelchair or walker.
If cerebral palsy affects the oral muscles, individuals may be non-verbal.
Children with cerebral palsy can also have all sorts of secondary and associative conditions, including:
- intellectual disabilities
- hearing impairments
- vision impairments
- chronic pain
- feeding difficulties
- behavior problems
The milder a child’s cerebral palsy is, the easier it will be for them to integrate into mainstream schooling.
Because every case of cerebral palsy is unique, it’s crucial to take an individualized approach and cater to that student’s specific needs.
2. The Americans with Disabilities Act Protects Individuals with Cerebral Palsy from Discrimination
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.”
This means that reasonable accommodations must be made to help students with disabilities succeed in school and participate in activities and events, just like everybody else.
3. Accommodations for Children with Cerebral Palsy in the Classroom
It’s essential to create an environment that promotes success in the classroom for everyone.
So, what kinds of accommodations can be made to help children with cerebral palsy succeed in the classroom?
This will vary depending on the individual needs of the student; however, some common accommodations for children with disabilities include:
- allowing additional time to finish assignments
- providing adaptive tools
- making sure the classroom is wheelchair accessible
- adjusting the formatting of tasks and assignments (i.e., taking a written test verbally)
- taking advantage of alternative communication (iPads, speech-generating devices, etc.)
- having an aide (for physical assistance, or reading and writing support)
4. Communication with the Family is Essential
Ensuring the success of a student with cerebral palsy in a mainstream school is a collaborative effort between the parents, teachers, administrators, and students.
Communication is essential.
Typically, parents are the most knowledgeable about the specifics of their child’s cerebral palsy.
By learning information about the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and triggers, teachers and administrators can help create the ideal learning environment.
Additionally, parents need to know how their child is doing when they’re not around.
Is their child getting along with others? Does he/she get easily frustrated by schoolwork?
By communicating these problems, both teachers and parents can work to resolve behavioral problems at school and at home.
5. Children with Cerebral Palsy Want to Be Included
Children with cerebral palsy are like all other kids. They want to make friends and feel like they belong.
Teachers should encourage their students to include everyone and help a struggling peer when they see one.
When children feel safe and accepted in their environment, they’re more likely to participate and ask for help.
Make sure that you speak to your student about how he/she feels in the classroom and whether further accommodations are needed.
Inclusion is about focusing on a student’s ability rather than their disability.
The earlier students start to feel accepted and included, the better their chances of staying well-adjusted, participating, and succeeding in school are.
Understanding Cerebral Palsy and Creating an Inclusive Classroom
Children with cerebral palsy can succeed in the same classroom as children without disabilities!
Just because a child has CP does not mean they have an intellectual disability.
While their motor impairments may make it difficult for them to write, move around, or speak, most children with CP have average or above-average intelligence and are perfectly capable of learning.
With the right accommodations, children with cerebral palsy can be hugely successful in the classroom.
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