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How to Treat the Adverse Emotional Effects of Cerebral Palsy

understanding the emotional effects of cerebral palsy

The emotional effects of cerebral palsy are often a result of feeling misunderstood or alone.

Adverse emotional effects like withdrawn behavior, anxiety, depression, or angry outbursts are commonly experienced as a result of motor impairments.

Even children with mild motor impairments can experience psychological symptoms.

This article will explain how cerebral palsy can affect your child’s emotional wellbeing and what you can do to manage it better.

Causes of Emotional Distress in Children with Cerebral Palsy

emotional effects of cp communication difficulties


Emotional problems are much more prevalent in children with cerebral palsy than in the general population.

Let’s go over 4 common reasons why emotional problems can develop in children with CP.

1. Poor Communication

Cerebral palsy can affect a child’s oral motor functioning and make it difficult for them to speak.

Having to continually repeat or further elaborate until someone finally understands what you’re trying to say can be very frustrating and tiresome.

This can cause people with cerebral palsy to be more emotionally volatile or reserved.

2. Gross and Fine Motor Impairments

Children with cerebral palsy may become emotional by comparing their abilities with children without CP.

Motor impairments make it more difficult for children with cerebral palsy to participate in physical activities with their peers.

This can make them feel self-conscious and left out.

Additionally, some children with cerebral palsy rely on walkers or wheelchairs to move around. The appearance of being different can also make them feel isolated.

3. Learning Disability

Although not caused by the same source of brain damage, learning disabilities are a common associative condition of cerebral palsy.

A learning disability can make it much more challenging for children with cerebral palsy to grasp, retain, and apply new information.

Children with both CP and learning difficulties may get frustrated and emotional when comparing their cognitive abilities with their peers.

Individuals with learning difficulties are fully capable of learning. They just need the right accommodations (extra time, more individual attention, etc.) to help them succeed.

4. Pain Avoidance

Many individuals with cerebral palsy experience chronic pain, which can cause emotional distress.

Chronic pain may be caused by complications of cerebral palsy like spasticity, uncontrollable movements, and poor posture.

Additionally, children with CP commonly have increased sensitivity to pain than the general population because of damage to the brain that can affect the processing of sensory information.

Therefore, children with cerebral palsy not only have more likeliness to experience pain but also are generally more sensitive to pain.

This can cause children with CP to develop avoidant and anxious behaviors that make them less active and social.

How to Deal with the Emotional Effects of Cerebral Palsy

managing adverse emotional effects of cerebral palsy


Depending on the cause of your child’s emotional problems, treatments will vary.

Some common management interventions include:

  • Psychotherapy. Speaking to a psychologist can really help your child understand their emotions and get easy access to helpful resources for dealing with emotional distress.
  • Behavioral Therapy. Behavioral therapy can help children learn more effective ways of communicating frustration than acting out.
  • Speech Therapy. If your child has oral motor impairments, going to a speech-language pathologist can help them improve their speech or teach them how to use assistive communication devices.
  • Support Group. Joining a cerebral palsy support group will not only help connect parents of children with CP together but also other children with CP. This will help make your child feel less alone.
  • Educational Assistance. If your child is struggling with a learning disability, make sure that they’re getting the additional support they need at school through special education services.
  • Physical Therapy. Physical therapy will help children with cerebral palsy improve their gross motor functions through exercise. This can help them become more confident in their abilities.
  • Occupational Therapy. Occupational therapy will help your child improve their fine motor skills by focusing on activities of daily living.
  • Adaptive Sports Program. Adaptive sports programs are all about promoting inclusion and an active lifestyle. Your child can meet and be inspired by lots of other children with disabilities.
  • Medication. If psychotherapy doesn’t work for your child’s depression or anxiety, your child’s doctor will likely prescribe medications to help stabilize neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

Emotional Effects of Cerebral Palsy: Key Points

A lot of emotional problems in children with cerebral palsy center around feeling misunderstood or not included.

This can cause them to withdraw socially, have emotional outbursts, develop depression, and have low self-esteem.

Luckily, many interventions are available to help your child improve their motor skills, feel more confident, and better understand their emotions.

Hopefully, this article helped you understand how CP can affect one’s emotional wellbeing and what treatments can help your child feel better. Good luck!

Featured image: ©

Keep It Going: See Fun Ways to Recover from Cerebral Palsy

Finally! There’s a recovery device for CP that’s actually fun to use. See how Flint Rehab’s tools are helping with CP recovery:

“The FitMi and MusicGlove have done wonders for my son with hemiparesis from cerebral palsy and stroke. It motivates him to do his exercises. It does not seem like therapy for him since it is fun. It monitors his progress so it is a great reinforcement for him. Music is a motivator for him. He has been using it on his arm and we will try the leg exercises soon.”

FitMi works by motivating high repetition of therapeutic exercises while playing an engaging game. This gamification has been particularly great for motivating individuals with cerebral palsy to recover.

To see how FitMi works, click here »