Parents and caregivers of children with cerebral palsy may often feel shocked and overwhelmed at the diagnosis. However, dealing with this moment is one of many challenges that parents and caregivers face. Patience and understanding are necessary for parents and caregivers to successfully meet these challenges and help children with cerebral palsy reach their potential.
Support for Families
Raising a child with cerebral palsy takes patience. This condition is often linked to challenging behaviors, such as self-harm, aggression toward others, repetitive speech or movements and temper tantrums. While these behaviors can test the patience of any parent or caregiver, it’s important to remind parents and caregivers never to lose hope for improvement.
While the symptoms of a child’s cerebral palsy may change over time, the condition is not progressive. These behaviors and other symptoms of cerebral palsy can improve over time with treatments that can include physical, occupational, speech, and recreation therapy.
Despite the challenges that raising a child with cerebral palsy may present, parents and caregivers should treat the child as they would any other child. Simple pleasures such as playing together, reading a book, visiting new places, being affectionate and having fun benefit both you as a parent or caregiver and the child.
Cerebral Palsy Support Information
Parents and caregivers can increase their ability to care for a child with cerebral palsy and care for themselves as they learn more about the condition.
Cerebral Palsy Group and others create and organize useful resources for accessing information about cerebral palsy. However, you want to be sure the websites you’re using are credible. Websites can be created by people without a comprehensive and clear understanding of cerebral palsy. Be aware of new treatments and technologies, including assistive aids, that can also help you improve a child’s quality of life and a family’s quality of life as well.
You can also deepen your understanding of cerebral palsy by speaking to professionals and parents. These individuals can teach you how to better meet a child’s needs. However, life shouldn’t be one therapy session after another. Balance is important for you and the child’s well-being. Since they are in a similar situation themselves, parents who have children with cerebral palsy can help you better understand how this condition will impact you and your family.
A support group is an excellent place for finding other parents who have children with cerebral palsy. Contacting a support group early is one of the best actions parents and caregivers can take. These groups can give you and others a place to share your experiences and information. A child’s physician or medical support staff may help you find one of these groups in your area.
Caregiver Support and Information
Taking care of a child with cerebral palsy can be both physically and mentally demanding on a parent or caregiver. You’re sometimes looking after a child 24/7. With constant focus on the child, it’s often that the caregiver neglects to take care of themselves. However, parents and caregivers should prioritize their own needs and take care of themselves as well as their child.
Tim Gort, a father of two special needs children and contributing writer for The Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press, understands the importance of this statement all too well. After feeling burned out, he and his wife started devoting themselves to some “me” time each day. By taking time to work out, enjoy date nights, or simply stare out the window, he says he’s better able to care for his children.
Resources and Support
You can reduce the pressure on yourself and improve the child’s life by taking advantage of a range of resources. It is recommended to work with the following professionals:
- Early intervention specialists
- Educators who can help you develop an Individual Family Service Plan or Individualized Education Program
- Speech pathologists
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Providers of assistive technology
A child’s physician will also continue to be a valuable resource throughout that child’s life. Doctors can prescribe medications to control common cerebral palsy symptoms, including spasticity, seizures, and muscle spasms.
Never underestimate how important one of your most important resources will be: your friends and family members. Parents and caregivers can work to educate their loved ones about cerebral palsy and care for children with cerebral palsy. Once educated, you’ll have people you can call on to help you when you need a hand or need some time to yourself.
Being the parent or caregiver of a child with cerebral palsy can be challenging, but with the right tools and strategies in place, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience.