Of all the motor disabilities a child can experience, cerebral palsy is the most common. It affects about one in every 323 children.
Do you have a loved one who’s living with this condition? Do you want to understand them better so you can empathize with their situation? Do you want to learn the best ways to help them?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, keep reading. Explained below is everything you need to know about what it’s like living with cerebral palsy.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy (also known as CP) is a condition that affects a person’s movement abilities, motor skills, and muscle tone.
People with CP have trouble moving with purpose and developing their coordination. CP may affect their other bodily functions as well, including breathing and eating abilities, talking, and control of the bladder and bowels.
In most cases, children develop CP before or during birth. They may also develop it within the first 3-5 years of their life.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
The specific symptoms a child will experience depend on the specific form of cerebral palsy with which they’ve been diagnosed. The following are the three primary types of CP:
- Spastic cerebral palsy: This condition causes muscle stiffness and difficulty moving around
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: This condition causes the person to experience uncontrolled movements
- Ataxic cerebral palsy: This condition causes problems with the person’s ability to balance and perceive depth
There’s no known cure for cerebral palsy. However, the symptoms associated with this condition also do not worsen over time.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
There are many different issues that can cause a child to develop cerebral palsy.
It’s not always clear what the cause is, but it often has to do with problems that occur before childbirth or during early infancy. Some of the most common causes include:
- Infections developed while the mother is pregnant
- A stroke that occurs after birth or while the child is still in the womb
- Untreated jaundice after the child is born
- Certain genetic disorders
- Other medical problems that affect the mother during pregnancy
- Trauma that occurs during the birth of the child or during early infancy
- Illnesses that occur during infancy or early childhood (lead poisoning, meningitis, etc.)
Premature babies are more likely to develop CP than babies who are carried to term. Babies with low birth rates face a higher risk, too, as do twins and triplets.
Living with Cerebral Palsy
People who are born with cerebral palsy often go on to live healthy, fulfilling, and satisfying lives. They do face unique challenges as a result of their condition, though.
Every person who has cerebral palsy has a different life experience, of course. However, the following are some things that many people with CP have in common:
One of the most common issues someone with CP experiences is trouble moving. The severity of their movement restrictions will vary, but most people with CP require some kind of assistance getting around, be it a wheelchair, braces, or a cane.
Some people with CP have trouble communicating their needs and wants. This is especially true of young children with CP. They often have to spend a lot of time working with speech therapists to improve their communication abilities.
In addition to having trouble speaking, people with CP often have trouble eating as well. In many cases, they have certain dietary restrictions or need help eating during meal times.
Even sleep can be a challenge for some people who have CP. They may experience pain when sleeping in certain positions, for example, or they may have trouble falling asleep.
Daily Hygiene Difficulties
Everyday activities like brushing teeth and showering can be significant obstacles for some folks with CP. They may require assistance to perform these daily hygiene tasks, or they may have to spend a lot of time working with an occupational therapist to learn how to do them on their own.
Cognitive disabilities and CP don’t always go hand in hand. When they do, though, it’s important that the person receive special assistance to help them continue learning and developing and working toward independence.
How to Help Someone with Cerebral Palsy
There are lots of ways that you can show love and support to someone who has cerebral palsy.
Simply being present and accepting them as they are is very meaningful. However, you can do more to ensure you’re treating them well and giving them the support they need:
Do Your Research
A good place to start is by learning what you can about cerebral palsy. The more you know, the easier it will be to understand what they’re experiencing and what they might need from you.
Once you have more information on cerebral palsy, you’ll be in a better position to offer help. This could be legal help, in the event that the CP was caused by trauma at birth, or other types of support, such as recommending a speech therapist or assisting with daily tasks.
Advocate for Them
Because people with CP often have trouble communicating, you need to advocate for them. In many ways, the world is not set up to support people with disabilities. You may need to speak up to ensure that your child, loved one, or friend gets what they need.
It’s important to advocate for and provide help to someone with CP. You shouldn’t do everything for them, though. Try to encourage and foster independence so they can enjoy a higher quality of life.
Support Your Loved One Today
If you know someone who is living with cerebral palsy, whether it’s a child, a family member, or a friend, you probably have found yourself wondering what you can do to support them and help them live a better life.
If you keep this information in mind, it’ll be easier for you to understand what they’re experiencing and the kind of help they need.
Do you want to learn more about how to help others with conditions like cerebral palsy? If so, check out the Health section of our site today for additional information.