How to Help a Child With Cerebral Palsy Become Independent

Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy

Independence is an important aspect of life. While there is no shame in relying on others for various things throughout your life, achieving independence in different areas can be incredibly fulfilling. Not all children with cerebral palsy ever gain full independence, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t gain independence over some areas of their lives. There are many things a parent can do to help their child gain the independence that they crave. 

Physical Independence 

For those with mild cases of cerebral palsy, there is never really a question about if they can lead an independent life. While they might struggle with some things more than others, parents feel confident that they will overcome these obstacles. However, when a child faces severe cerebral palsy, parents tend to view their children’s chances of autonomy with a little less optimism. 

Children begin to assert their independence at an early age and in a physical manner. One of the first acts of independence for most children is learning to crawl. No longer fully relying on someone else to get from point A to point B is a huge milestone. Unfortunately, it is one that many children with cerebral palsy achieve much later than other children if they achieve it at all. 

The best thing that parents of children with cerebral palsy can do to assist in developing the independence of their child is to find physical and occupational therapists immediately following their child’s diagnosis.  

Cerebral palsy is not a degenerative condition. The damage is done during pregnancy, at birth, or shortly thereafter, and does not grow worse with time. However, while the underlying issue does not worsen, the outward mobility of your child can devolve.  

With early and continued therapy, a child with cerebral palsy can ensure that they are getting maximum efficiency from their body. Without therapy, your child may find themselves much less physically able than they could be. They may find themselves in a vicious cycle, where their disability makes it more difficult to do the exercise they need to do to improve, which in turn makes things even more difficult, and on and on. 

True Independence 

True independence does not mean that a person does not need help with some things. True independence is about living the life you want to live on your terms. Even if your child requires lifelong assistance, that does not preclude them from living an independent life. People with cerebral palsy will strive for independence, just like everyone else, and parents should encourage this desire in their children. 

People should not be limited by their disabilities and made to feel like there is only so far that they can go in life. People with cerebral palsy can and have achieved all manner of incredible feats and will continue to do so. People with disabilities have a history of proving to the world that their limitations are not limiting. 

Stephen Hawking is a great example of an individual who lived with a severe disability but did not let it stop him from living his life his way. Hawking did not have cerebral palsy but instead suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  

The illness left him immobilized and unable to speak. Yet with a combination of technology and determination, he didn’t let it stop him from having a family, writing multiple books, giving lectures, and making scientific discoveries. He even became a well-known pop culture icon through guest appearances on shows like Star Trek: Next Generation, The Simpsons, and Futurama. 

Hawking lived an independent life the way he wanted, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have help. He had a family and nurses who assisted in his care with the things that he could not do on his own. Like Hawking, most people with cerebral palsy are fully capable of creating the life they want to live. Some people will be able to handle all aspects of their life on their own, while others will require assistance as he did. 

Mental Impairments 

There are several different types of cerebral palsy, and while the majority of people living with the condition face only physical challenges, there is a large minority that deals with mental impairment as well. For the latter group, full independence may be a little more difficult to achieve, but partial independence is always possible.  

People of all mental levels are able to make decisions about certain aspects of their lives and not rely on someone else to decide everything for them. Even something as simple as being able to choose what to watch on the television can be incredibly liberating. Never underestimate anyone with a disability. Almost all obstacles can be overcome. 

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