Living with an infant or child who has cerebral palsy will take adjustments and planning, and since CP affects each person differently depending upon the type of the severity of the disorder, some may have to make more adjustments than others. To make things easier, it’s important to understand what to expect early on so that you can be prepared to deal with the various challenges involved with caring for a child with CP.
Communication is a vital part of daily living, and if your child has limited speaking abilities, it usually takes time and training to figure out the best way to communicate. For example, some children with CP thrive with electronic devices that assist in communication while others do better with sign language. If your child can speak but has trouble forming words, consider daily or weekly speech therapy with a licensed professional. If your child is still an infant, most professionals suggest starting early intervention at around 1-2 years of age in order to determine their level of communication and what assistance they may need.
Daily Personal Care
In some instances, daily personal care can be a challenge for both children who have CP and their loved ones. For example, in severe cases, small tasks such as brushing hair and getting dressed cannot be done without full assistance. On the other hand, children with a mild form of CP may be able to easily get dressed and brush their hair, but may need assistance with putting toothpaste correctly on a toothbrush and/or tying their shoes. Almost all children living with CP will need at least a bit of help with daily personal care, but many families find that sticking to a schedule with a daily routine works best.
Challenges with daily mobility will also depend on how severe the CP is. For instance, many children with CP can easily walk around, walk up and down stairs, and sit with no assistance needed. On the other hand, however, children with severe CP may not be able to move at all without help. Other children may need canes or leg braces in order to move around.
Daily Meal Preparations
For children with limited mobility, you’ll more than likely have to assist them with eating and drinking every day and on a long-term basis. In addition, many children with CP require a diet that prepared in a way that makes it easy for them to swallow. Preparing meals in a different way from the rest of the family can be challenging, especially for those with other children. However, as mentioned earlier, planning out a routine in advance will make things go more smoothly.
Daily Learning at Home
When your child isn’t in therapy or rehabilitation classes, you’ll need to continue to work on communication and other life skills on a daily basis. For example, along with enforcing a scheduled routine, it’s important to encourage your child to practice communication and motor skills every day. For instance, if applicable, make sure to practice self care activities daily, such as tying shoelaces and brushing hair. Although all children need to learn these activities, a child with CP needs additional instruction with focused, constant practice. In addition, set aside time each day for communication skills, whether it be through manual learning or electronic devices. Always follow daily learning sessions with positive reinforcement.
Keep in mind that even though it may seem difficult at times, living with cerebral palsy is something that millions do every day. With the proper guidance and training, your child can successfully live with CP and become an integral part of the family and your community.