Does cerebral palsy affect intelligence? While cerebral palsy does not affect cognitive functions like intelligence, about 50% of individuals with CP have an intellectual disability.
This article will explain why intellectual disabilities are so common amongst individuals with cerebral palsy and how to overcome them.
Does Cerebral Palsy Affect Intelligence?
Cerebral palsy is not directly correlated with intellectual disability; however, they are associative conditions of one another, meaning they often co-occur.
Fundamentally, cerebral palsy only affects motor skills such as movement, balance, and posture.
Intellectual disabilities are the result of a different source of damage to the brain and are more common amongst those with more severe forms of cerebral palsy. However, because they are caused by two separate events, it is possible for individuals with mild cerebral palsy to have intellectual impairments.
In the following section, we’ll discuss the distinctions between intellectual disabilities and another comorbidity of cerebral palsy, learning disabilities.
What’s the Difference Between Intellectual Disability and Learning Disability?
Intellectual disabilities and learning disabilities are two distinct conditions; however, many people use them interchangeably. These two conditions have different improvement outlooks, so it’s essential to understand the discrepancies between them.
The main distinction between intellectual disability and learning disability is IQ. A person with an intellectual disability will have an IQ at or below 70 and struggle with adaptive behaviors like communication and self-care.
In contrast, someone with a learning disability typically has average or above-average intelligence. The term learning disability is more academically oriented and describes difficulties understanding skills learned in a school setting like reading, math, and writing.
Now that you understand how an intellectual disability differs from a learning disability, let’s discuss how to spot an intellectual disability.
Signs of an Intellectual Disability
Intellectual disabilities can be mild (IQ 50-70), moderate (IQ 36-49), severe (IQ 20-35), or profound (IQ below 20). Milder intellectual impairments may go unnoticed in young children and become more apparent as they get older.
Because intellectual disabilities are so common amongst individuals with cerebral palsy, parents should understand what symptoms to look out for so they can start management as early as possible.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy may struggle to interact with others and care for themselves due to impaired mobility and cognition. Early intervention can help prevent the development of problematic behaviors like self-harm and aggression. If you suspect your child is demonstrating signs of intellectual disability, consult with their pediatrician for a professional diagnosis.
Signs of an intellectual disability include:
- Problems communicating and understanding social situations
- Delayed responses
- Poor memory
- Emotional outbursts
- Difficulties thinking logically and problem-solving
- Learning to crawl and walk later than other children
- Avoiding social interaction
- Easily distracted and has difficulties concentrating
- Short memory span
- Inability to recognize familiar voices or faces
- Delayed language development
Up next, we’ll discuss some important considerations to keep in mind when assessing intellectual disabilities in children with cerebral palsy.
Assessing Cognitive Skills in Children with Cerebral Palsy
Pediatric cognitive assessments are generally catered towards children without motor impairments. This can cause children with cerebral palsy to score much lower than their actual intellectual capacity is.
For example, children with impaired oral motor skills likely won’t perform well on a verbal subscale, and children with poor fine motor skills probably won’t be able to point to objects or fill in answers.
Therefore, a traditional cognitive assessment may not provide the best measure of your child’s cognitive skills.
When testing children with cerebral palsy for cognitive impairments, it’s essential to consider their motor impairments. This may involve taking a different kind of test or allowing more time for them to finish.
In the following section, we’ll discuss various interventions that can help children with cerebral palsy manage their intellectual disabilities.
Managing Intellectual Disabilities in Children with Cerebral Palsy
While an intellectual disability can significantly interfere with an individual’s ability to interact with their surroundings and care for themselves, there are management interventions that can significantly improve their quality of life.
Management for intellectual disabilities in individuals with cerebral palsy can include:
- Behavior therapy can help improve social skills like communication and problem-solving. It focuses on identifying problem behaviors and replacing them with positive reinforcement.
- Educational assistance can help ensure that your child has the individual support and attention he or she needs to succeed academically. Schools are required to provide reasonable accommodations to help individuals with intellectual disabilities succeed.
- Speech therapy helps develop articulation, listening, and receptive language skills to improve interactions with others. Individuals who are non-verbal may learn how to use augmentative and alternative communication to improve their communication skills.
- Occupational therapy helps your child learn to be more independent by practicing activities of daily living and adaptive techniques.
- Physical therapy can help reduce physical impairment and optimize motor functions through targeted exercise.
These management interventions will provide your child with the personalized care they need to participate in society and minimize the development of problematic behaviors.
Understanding Intellectual Disabilities and Cerebral Palsy
Intellectual disabilities often co-occur in individuals with cerebral palsy, which can make it difficult for them to communicate their needs and care for themselves. While there is no cure for intellectual disability, individuals can learn how to maximize their independence and engage in everyday life.
Hopefully, this article helped you better understand the link between cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities and how to manage them to improve your child’s quality of life. Good luck!
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