Cerebral Palsy: How to Help These Stars Shine
It is hard to describe the feelings of a mother who has delivered a child with cerebral palsy (CP). During pregnancy, a mother fantasizes carrying a normal, healthy and smiling baby to love and cuddle. When this doesn’t happen, it is a real blow to the feelings of both the parents as disbelief, guilt and sorrow knock on their doors.
I would also imagine how difficult it would be for a mother to accept a child with untreatable abnormalities when she comes to know that her baby is different from rest of the world’s children. Many parents of special children are unable to accept the disability and send them to orphanages or other charity organizations. Even if they keep them in homes, they hide them from relatives and their community out of shame. Other feelings that parents may encounter are fear, confusion and disappointment.
Acceptance of a child with a learning disability is the first principle in caring for disabled children. Therefore, every one of us—including parents, teachers, and peers of children affected by CP—need to understand that a learning disability simply means ‘not being able to learn something’, and according to the definition of this term, all of us at times are disabled until we have been taught. With this understanding, parents of CP children can walk along with the lives of their children smoothly. As one of the parents of a CP child stated: “I stopped seeing the disability and started seeing the person we love and that we are raising,” (raisingchildren.net.au).
I also had an experience of working with mother of a 16-year-old CP child. She shared that she was disappointed in the beginning, but was now coping well with her child. I noticed that, because of her acceptance, she was able to understand her daughter’s needs and communicate effectively with her.
The second basic principle in dealing with learning disabilities is to have early interventions with good faith and hope. Although CP is considered a non-progressive neuromuscular disorder, if not rehabilitated early, it may lead to dreadful psychological effects on the child.
CP may not be recognized immediately after birth, but mothers are able to recognize the signs early on. The most common indication of CP is known as ‘floppy baby,’ i.e. having a lack of tone in the body. The second indication is that the child just doesn’t follow the normal developmental milestones. As a child with CP grows, CP manifestations become more visible to the parents.
CP affects children in several ways, ranging from mild to severe learning disabilities. This can include psychomotor, physical, intellectual and cognitive disabilities as well as effects on speech, feelings, behavior and normal day-to-day functions.
One of the primary difficulties in CP is dealing with intellectual disabilities; these are particularly difficult to assess due to speech and cognitive impairments. However, using few medical or psychological tools, caregivers can identify learning disabilities related to intellectual, psychological and social development. Moreover, it is important to understand that learning difficulties are interrelated, such that working on one can improve the others. For example, psychomotor improvement can affect social interaction positively.
So—the next step is to help parents seek and learn early intervention! CP children and their parents should be educated to use a variety of strategies to deal with learning disabilities, such as medical and surgical, occupational speech and behavioral therapies. They can use relaxation techniques, music or play therapies and can seek the help of specialized training programs like conductive education.
To begin, psychomotor disabilities that include walking-gait difficulties and scissor-like legs can be tackled with physiotherapy. Physiotherapy operates on different ranges of motion exercises performed repeatedly to improve gross and fine motor abilities, such as holding a ball to play or holding a pencil to write on a paper. It also prevents the development of contractures and pressure sores that appear due to a lack of utilization of muscles or joints.
Physical therapies include surgeries in conjunction with medicine to improve a child’s physical capabilities. Some of these include joint straightening or tendon lengthening, and hearing and vision surgeries. Occupational therapy helps CP children to deal with daily tasks such as eating, brushing teeth and bathing, to refine their physical, cognitive and social abilities, and to improve sensory functions like listening and comprehension (Cerebral Palsy Guide 2016).
Moreover, special devices such as turned spoons for feeding or special chairs and walkers can be purchased from special shops to assist in mobility. Modified clothes can be bought or tailored, such as shirts with sticky buttons or hooks to decrease the effect of disability on a child. These therapies allow the child learn self-dependency (Wong, Hockenberry, & Wilson, 2014).
Play therapy can be used by parents, siblings, occupational therapists or nurses. It brings pleasure to the child. It must be realized that CP children cannot easily involve themselves in spontaneous play. Therefore, parents should be explained the importance of involving them in play and selecting appropriate toys (Society of Play and creative art therapies).
Parents can also use strategies like teaching children a system of signs on picture boards to express their feelings, using puzzles, using games to identify different objects, etc. Moreover, relaxation therapies like massage and music can reduce a child’s stress and enhance development.
A conductive educational program is commonly used in institutions that deal with CP children. It involves group learning that makes CP children socially interactive and energetic learners. Students in this activity follow teachers’ instructions together. This type of learning also helps in personality and social development (www.cerebralpalsy.org).
Thus, acceptance and early intervention are the keys to making disabled children useful members of society. Numerous examples can be found globally to support that CP children can be CEOs, book writers, painters, and poets (Famous people with CP, 2015).
8.Wong, D., Hockenberry, M., & Wilson, D. (2007). Wong’s nursing care of infants and children. St. Louis, Mo.: Mosby/Elsevier.
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