Family members working together with doctors can use home treatment to provide the best possible care for a baby or young child with cerebral palsy (CP).
Education and support for parents and family members
Learn about the condition. Often the biggestproblem for parents is fear of the unknown. Learn about the condition so youare best able to help your child. You may find local or national cerebral palsyorganizations helpful, especially in dealing with the impact of daily emotionaland lifestyle issues. Talk with your doctor or call your local hospital forsuggestions. For more information, see the Other Places to Get Help section ofthis topic.
Learn about your child's educational rights.Educational rights for disabled children are mandatedby law in the United States. These laws include free early treatment programs,equal access to public education, and protection of the parents' rights to befully informed about or disagree with educational decisions concerning theirchild. Contact your state and local education departments for specificinformation about these accommodations. In addition,vocational training may benefit some teens and youngadults.
Work with teachers and school officials. Workwith your child's teachers, school administrators, special learningconsultants, and school boards to develop the best educational plan for yourchild. A cooperative team approach helps your child realize his or herpotential.
Provide emotional support. The needs of a childwith CP change over time. As children grow and become more aware of theirphysical limitations, they need to be able to talk about their feelings and howthey are treated. It is sometimes easier for them to talk with someone who isnot a family member. Ask your doctor about whether emotionalcounseling would benefit your child. Also, includeyour child when making decisions about his or her health care.
Take care of yourself. Get proper rest, eat well,exercise, and learnways to cope with the challenges of raising a child with CP. You will bebetter equipped to help your child when you have physical energy and emotionalstrength.
Help each other. The entire family is affectedwhen one member has CP.Helping family members cope with this situation isimportant, especially for siblings. You can help prevent other children fromhaving unrealistic fears and concerns, feeling left out, or becomingoverwhelmed.
Helping with daily routines
Each person with CP has unique strengths and areas of difficulty. But most people with CP need ongoing help with:
Feeding and eating. Cerebral palsy canaffect jaw control and interfere with the ability to chew, suck, and swallow.Special utensils, such as plates that stick to a surface; properly positioningyour child at meals; and serving soft or semi-solid foods, such as oatmeal, maybe helpful.
Using the toilet. Some people withcerebral palsy have stiff hip joints or similar problems that make using atoilet difficult. Others do not have dependable bladder control. Specialundergarments and training by anoccupational therapist are common ways to help treatthis condition.
Bathing and grooming. People with cerebral palsy who do not have control oftheir hands or arms usually are unable to groom themselves. Others can betaught some level of self-grooming through regular practice.
Dressing. Provide clothing and shoes that are easy to put on andtake off, such as those that zip or button in the front (not the back) or thathave large buttons, ties, or Velcro fasteners.
Dental care. Cerebral palsy can affect the jaw muscles, make teeth improperlypositioned and prone to decay, and cause sensitivity in the mouth and tongue.Also, many people with CP find it difficult to use a toothbrush. You can helpyour child by providing special equipment, such as a mechanized teeth-cleaningwater spray or electric toothbrush; buying toothpaste for sensitive gums; andmaking sure he or she has regular dental cleanings.
Skin care.Drooling is common in people with CP, which can cause skin irritation aroundthe chin, mouth, and chest. You can help prevent skin irritations and protectyour child's skin by blotting rather than wiping drool, using absorbent clothsto cover the chest, and applying lotions or corn starch to areas that are proneto irritation.
Speaking. Some people with CP haveproblems with the muscles in their jaws and mouth as well as hearing loss.These problems, alone or in combination, can make it difficult to form words.Try to speak slowly, look directly at your child, and use pictures or objectsas you talk. Also, read with your child a lot, and use picture books to helpyour child express himself or herself.
Keeping active. Your childneeds to move his or her limbs to help keep muscles strong and joints flexible.Have him or her move and play as much as possible. Involve other family memberstoo. Ask the doctor, physical therapist, or other parents forideas.
Safety. People with CP are prone to falls and otheraccidents, especially if they are affected byseizures. You can take general safety measures athome-such as having heavy, sturdy furniture or not polishing floors-to helpyour child avoid accidents. Also, use common sense and care around sharpobjects, and never leave a person with CP alone while he or she is bathing.
Preparing for independence
You and your family and friends can help your child reach his or her highest potential. Focus on his or her strengths. And build self-esteem by helping your child learn to do things by himself or herself. For more information see:
As your child approaches the teen years and young adulthood, be aware of his or her changing needs.
Teens and adults with CP needemotional support and understanding. Family membersand other supportive friends and family can help them deal with the dailychallenges of having CP.
Gradually prepare your child with CP forindependent living. Usually teens have learned to usetheir talents and strengths. But they may need extra help and encouragement toprepare for added expectations and responsibilities.
Teens andyoung adults with CP may also need more guidance than other people their age indeveloping intimate relationships.
Parents must also recognize that they will need to change their own routines as their child with CP grows and develops. For example, parents may not be able to continue caring for a severely affected child who is growing tall and heavy. Parents also need to plan ahead for the time when their grown child with CP is not under their care. For more information, see the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic.
Most children with cerebral palsy live to adulthood and have a somewhat shorter than normal life span. But a lot depends on the type of CP and the degree of problems. Preparing your child for adulthood takes careful planning. It also requires patience and resourcefulness on your part. Do not abandon your efforts because of frustrating setbacks or obstacles.
Encourage independent living skills. A timemay come when you or other family members can no longer assist your child withCP at the accustomed level.
Complications of cerebral palsy may develop and affect quality of life. Also, some forms of CP aremore severe and require special assistance. For these reasons, planning for anadult's current and future health care needs is important.
Occupational therapy and similar programs may behelpful. Most adults with CP are employed, despite moderate to severe physicaldisability. In the United States, laws protect the rights of disabled people tofind and hold employment (among other rights). Learn about the provisions ofthe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. For more information aboutthe ADA, see the Other Places to Get Help section.
Older adultswith CP may need extra help preparing for retirement.
1995-2009 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.