Raising a child with Cerebral Palsy (CP) can seem like an insurmountable task, and it will definitely be a challenge, but that’s no reason to despair. There are a lot of misconceptions about raising a child with CP. Knowing all of the facts might help alleviate the stress of raising a child with special needs.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
CP is a group of disorders that affects the white matter in the brain, which is responsible for balance, coordination, and fine motor control. Cerebral palsy is known to be the most common cause of motor disability in children, and it affects an estimated 500,000 Americans. There are three main types of CP:
- Spastic CP (stiff muscles)
- Dyskinetic CP (involuntary movement)
- Ataxic CP (difficulty with coordination and balance)
Every case of CP is different in terms of type and severity, so knowing exactly what kind of CP your child is dealing with and how severe it is can help guide your expectations and manage your anxiety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Spastic CP is the most common type and comprises about 80% of all people with CP. There are three types of spastic CP: spastic diplegia/diparesis, spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis, and spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis.
People with spastic diplegia/diparesis experience muscle stiffness mainly in the legs. There may or may not be stiffness in the arms, but if there is, it will be milder.
Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis affects the arms more than the legs, and its symptoms manifest on one side of the body only. According to the Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association (CHASA), the symptoms of spastic hemiplegia will manifest on the side of the body opposite the affected side of the brain; this can help you determine which side of your child’s brain is affected and what to expect from your child from a developmental point of view.
This is the most severe form of spastic CP and affects all the body’s limbs. People with spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis are usually unable to walk; spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis is often coupled with intellectual disabilities and seizures.
Dyskinetic CP causes involuntary movements in the hands and feet, which can make it difficult to walk or sit. Dyskinetic CP may also affect the tongue and cheeks, responsible for all mouth movements, such as swallowing and speaking.
Ataxic CP affects coordination. This means that people with this form of CP have difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing, tying their shoes, or reaching for objects. Ataxic CP might make a person’s walk awkward, but it doesn’t usually prevent people from walking altogether.
Some of the most frightening worries about raising a child with CP are misconceptions. Instead of fearing the worst, you should keep in mind that CP may not limit your child’s ability as much as you’d think. Try not to cater to any of the following fallacies:
A Child With CP Can’t Succeed
For the vast majority of kids with CP, there’s no truth to this whatsoever. Less than half of the children with CP show intellectual impairment, so don’t make the mistake of giving your child limitations they may not actually have.
A Child With CP Will Be Unable to Work
A difficult situation should not turn into something impossible. If you help your child develop a skill or passion, their failure is far from guaranteed. As long as you keep an open and positive mind, whilst always encouraging and supporting your child, you may be surprised to see what they are capable of.
A Child With CP Can’t Have a Normal Life
Firstly, there is no such thing. Secondly, coming up with limitations and barriers for your child could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, so be patient and maintain a positive attitude. Your child’s future depends on having you in their corner.
” This article is a collaboration with a freelance writer and follows The Haitian Times publishing guidelines”