What are the Special Needs of a Child with Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP), according to a general definition from the Mayo Health Clinic, is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth. Some individuals with cerebral palsy are only mildly affected and have a relatively large range of motion, while others’ functional abilities are greatly impaired. Depending on the severity of a child’s CP, he/she will have a variety of special needs. Fortunately, there are numerous forms of treatments that allow an individual with CP to have some improved functional abilities.
Types of CP and Different Needs
While cerebral palsy is the most common childhood motor disability, the needs of a child are based on the type of cerebral palsy. While many CP signs occur or are noticed as early as 2 months or as late as 24 months, it is important for parents and caregivers to contact a medical professional as soon as they notice any changes, such as delayed motor skills. The earlier a child becomes diagnosed; the sooner plan can be put in to action (to improve functional abilities). Yet depending on the type of CP, a treatment plan will vary as each one should be specialized for an individual’s needs.
The four main types of cerebral palsy are:
Spastic CP: This type is the most common and affects about 80% of people with cerebral palsy. Individuals with spastic CP have stiff muscles, resulting in awkward and rigid movements, due to increased muscle tone.
Spastic diplegia/diparesis: refers to individuals who have stiffness in their legs, with the arms either less affected or not at all. Walking is often difficult and walking aids may be needed depending on the severity of the “scissoring” or the way the hips, legs, and knees act while walking.
Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis: only affects one side of the body and more often the arm than the leg. Depending on the severity, the individual should have little difficult with walking unassisted.
Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis: is the most severe form of spastic CP as it affects arms, legs, trunk and face. Most individuals cannot walk and have additional disabilities such as intellectual disability, seizures, vision, hearing, or speech issues. These individuals may be wheelchair bound and require the use of a communication board or device to help them communicate. This form of CP does not allow for much mobility or functioning as an independent.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy (including athetoid, choreothetoid, dystonic CP)
Individuals with Dyskinetic CP have difficulty controlling the movements of their hands, arms, feet and legs, making it difficult to sit or walk. The movements can change often and can be unpredictable. The individual may have a hard time talking, sucking, or swallowing as the face and tongue muscles may be affected. This individual may need assistive technologies and help getting around.
Ataxic CP: Individuals have issues with balance and coordination and may have a hard time controlling their hands or arms when reaching, etc. These individuals may need assistance with walking or the use of assistive technologies or modified implements to assist them in their daily activities.
Mixed CP: Individuals who have more than one type of CP. Like other types of CP, the severity of the condition depends on the needs of the individual.
Depending on your child’s needs, he/she may need certain therapies such as speech, occupational or physical. Additionally, some children may require surgery or medication. Cerebral palsy can be a stressful and heartbreaking condition for a family to face, but many individuals with CP thrive in life, due to the modifications and other treatments they are given. Remember, cerebral palsy is not the same for every individual, seek out medical advice and the support of others who have dealt with children with CP. With their help, you can create a specialized plan to help you better attend to your child’s special needs.