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 linked to intellectual disability; however, they are associative conditions of one another, meaning they often occur together.
Generally, 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 have difficulty with 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 determine 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 common amongst individuals with cerebral palsy, parents need to be aware of symptoms so they can start therapeutic treatment as early as possible.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy may have difficulty interacting with others and performing self care due to impaired mobility and cognition. Early intervention may 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 cues/situations
- Delayed responses
- Poor memory
- Emotional outbursts
- Difficulties with logical thinking and problem-solving
- Delays in crawling and walking
- Avoiding social interaction
- Easily distracted and difficulty with concentration
- Short memory span
- Inability to recognize familiar voices or faces
- Delayed language development
Up next, we’ll discuss important considerations for assessing intellectual disabilities in children with cerebral palsy.
Assessing Cognitive Skills in Children with Cerebral Palsy
Pediatric cognitive assessments can cause children with cerebral palsy to score much lower than their actual intellectual capacity is due to not recognizing the motor impairments.
For example, children with impaired oral motor skills may not perform well on a verbal subscale, and children with poor fine motor skills may not 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 test or allowing more time for them to complete the tests.
In the following section, we’ll discuss various interventions that may 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 may improve social skills such as communication and problem-solving. It focuses on identifying problem behaviors and replacing them with positive reinforcement.
- Educational assistance may provide individual support and attention your child needs to succeed academically. Schools are required to provide reasonable accommodations to assist individuals with intellectual disabilities for successful learning.
- Speech therapy treatments 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 may 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 may occur in individuals with cerebral palsy, which may make it difficult for them to communicate their needs and care for themselves. With the right support and management, individuals with intellectual disabilities may learn how to maximize their independence and engage in everyday life.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand the link between cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities as well as available therapies to improve your child’s quality of life. Good luck!