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A Parent’s Guide to Cerebral Palsy in Children

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Cerebral palsy is an impairment that children as well as their parents often find difficult to deal with. As a neurological condition, cerebral palsy affects the way your child’s brain controls their movement. This disorder, diagnosed at birth or early in life, is caused by issues in a child’s brain development. Fortunately, most children with cerebral palsy are still able to transition into adulthood and become productive members of the community.

As a parent, seeing your child struggle with this condition can leave you feeling helpless. Still, it’s possible to make life more manageable for your child with the right care and treatment. With that in mind, here are some things you should remember when taking care of a child with cerebral palsy:

What Does Cerebral Palsy Look Like?

The type of motor issues your child experiences hinges on the kind of cerebral palsy that they have, which also depends on the part of the brain that sustained damage. The most common form is spastic cerebral palsy, which involves stiff or difficult movements. There’s also ataxic cerebral palsy that affects balance and depth perception, and athetoid or dyskinetic cerebral palsy that results in involuntary or uncontrollable movements. Additionally, children can have a mixed type of cerebral palsy, which encompasses a variety of symptoms.

Typically, the symptoms of cerebral palsy become noticeable within the first two or three years of life. Although they can still learn to walk or run, children born with mild cerebral palsy usually do so a bit later than their peers. Some children also require devices like leg braces, walkers, and wheelchairs for mobility assistance. 

What Problems Come with Cerebral Palsy?

Apart from movement difficulties, your child may also encounter other impairments involving their vision, hearing, speech, oral motor skills, and cognitive functions. Despite being associated with learning disabilities, cerebral palsy is inherently separate from intelligence. So, even with cerebral palsy, your child can still display a high level of intelligence.  

It’s also worth noting that this condition often comes with seizure disorders like epilepsy. As such, you may want to consider your options for gamot sa epilepsy to help manage seizure-related symptoms like convulsions, joint stiffness, disorientation, and unconsciousness.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Each child experiences cerebral palsy differently, so treatments will also vary depending on your child’s symptoms. For instance, your child may require the assistance of a multidisciplinary team of therapists, physicians, psychologists, special education professionals, social workers, and educators. These professionals will help your child with their issues in mobility, communication, nutrition, education, and socio-emotional development.

Physiotherapy or physical therapy is also a common form of treatment for cerebral palsy. A physical therapist can help your child use exercise techniques to strengthen their muscles, avoid bone problems, maintain their physical capabilities, and potentially improve their condition. Your child may additionally require the assistance of a speech therapist, especially when they have issues with oral motor functions and facial muscle control. Lastly, an occupational therapist may be of service in helping your child acquire functional independence.

How Do I Manage Mealtimes?

Children with cerebral palsy may find it hard to finish their meals and get the nutrients that they need. To make eating easier, your child may need a speech therapist to help them strengthen their mouth muscles. If that’s unsuccessful, your child may need to be fitted with a gastrostomy feeding tube (G-tube).

Usually, children with cerebral palsy require special dietary needs. With this, it may help to work with a nutritionist or pediatrician to establish a diet plan. A good diet for a child with cerebral palsy generally includes plenty of vegetables and fruits. It may also help to include foods high in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D to strengthen your child’s bones. Consider filling your child’s diet with milk and milk products, fish, orange juice, cereal, eggs, poultry, whole grains, and nuts.

How Do I Manage Their Daily Hygiene?

Having a child with cerebral palsy means accepting that they need extra assistance with everyday activities such as taking a bath, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed. You can work with a physical therapist to help your child through these daily activities, but you can also learn some best practices for in-home therapy. For example, you can teach them to dress by having them lay them on their side, hold onto a sturdy object, or sit against a wall. 

It may also help your child to grasp something sturdy when using the toilet or bathing. Consider getting items such as non-slip pads, grab bars, or a semi-reclined toilet seat fitted with suction cups to make bathing and going to the potty easier for your child. If your child is at an early age, you can make hygiene training fun by associating bath time and potty time with games.

How Do I Handle Playtime and Bedtime?

Because of their limited mobility, playtime may look a bit different for your child. For this reason, it’s vital to work with your physical therapist to know which exercises and play activities are best for your child. These activities may include ball games, yoga, swimming, and dancing.

Getting enough activity during the day is also important for mitigating restlessness at night. Sleeping can be challenging for children with cerebral palsy, mostly due to the pain and movement issues they may experience. That said, you may want to work with your doctor to determine sleeping positions that would suit your child.

How Can I Ensure a Normal Life for My Child?

Being a parent to a child with cerebral palsy requires a great deal of open-mindedness and patience. It’s not overreaching to wish for a normal life for your child; it’s also your duty as a parent to ensure that they are accepted and supported. 

Raising children is already a tough task, even more so if they’re afflicted with lifelong conditions. Still, it’s important to instill in your child the idea that they aren’t powerless—that they can grow through their condition, handle themselves well, and ask for help when needed. At the end of the day, it takes a parent’s love to help a child overcome insurmountable limits and show the world the best they can be.

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