Cerebral palsy (CP) refers to a group of neurological disorders that arise in infancy or early childhood due to abnormal brain development or brain damage.
Symptoms of CP include neurological, motor, and secondary problems such as stunted growth, sleep disorders, and contractures. Most symptoms can be managed with appropriate accommodations and symptomatic treatments.
Depending on the progression of symptoms, several lifestyle changes can be made to overcome the limitations of CP. These include:
Low muscle tone, muscle spasms, and poor reflexes are common symptoms in children with CP. These symptoms progress with age so they require intervention to prevent decreased mobility from affecting quality of life.
Augmentative and alternative communication using gestures, body language, or assistive equipment, such as communication boards or computers, can be helpful for children who are unable to talk.
Children with CP commonly experience dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) and are at a higher risk of aspiration (ingesting food into the lungs) during oral feeding. This causes considerable stress during feeding and can affect nutritional intake. An SLP can guide parents and caregivers towards the best feeding practices for their child.
A dietitian can also help CP children with their unique dietary needs to ensure enough nutrient intake for proper brain function. Food texture may also have to be modified to make it easier to swallow.
Getting proper sleep can be a major challenge for children with CP. A healthy diet combined with a good amount of physical exercise, and a calm atmosphere during bedtime can help children to get proper sleep. A physiotherapist can help find the best sleeping position to minimize pain and discomfort.
Children with CP may feel excluded from various activities and educational opportunities at school. To facilitate more inclusion, parents should let the school know of their child’s disability so the school can develop an individualized education plan for specialized instruction, accommodations, and other interventions as needed.
Adults with CP
Transitioning to adulthood can be difficult for children with CP but it can be managed well if they learn to become independent at an early age. Young adults may opt for schools that provide vocational education and job training to those with disabilities so that they can gain life skills and work towards achieving financial security.
Adults with CP can seek community support, apply for supplemental social security insurance, and get government assistance for nutrition, temporary cash, and more.
As is the case for all people, adopting and maintaining healthy habits and good fitness can help to improve the quality of life for those with CP.
Last updated: Mar. 2, 2020
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