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Can Children With Cerebral Palsy Live Independent Lives?

by Rose Welton

Cerebral palsy is a brain impairment that occurs from brain damage before or during birth. It affects movement and muscle tone, and can result in physical limitations that range from weakness to paralysis, according to HealthyChildren.org. Although no cure exists for cerebral palsy, encouraging your child to be independent can make some tasks easier, and it will boost his self-esteem. Since cerebral palsy affects some kids more severely than others, some children will be able to live mostly independently, whereas others will not. It is important to understand how you can approach your child’s limitations to help him achieve as much independence as possible.

Abilities

The way cerebral palsy affects a child's physical skills varies with each child, according to KidsHealth.org. Some children are able to eat, drink, and to dress themselves and use the bathroom. Your child might be able to move herself around by driving her own wheelchair or walking with using a walker. Learning how to perform small tasks like retrieving something or selecting her clothes for the day will give your child a sense of independence.

Assistance

You can help your child work toward independence by setting up an environment that allows him to have opportunities to get along in the world without help from you. You can add special adaptations to your toilet, which will enable help to use the bathroom by himself. You can also encourage him to dress himself by providing him with easy-to-use clothing such as pants with elastic waistbands. You can also give him shoes that have fabric fasteners.

Expectations

Avoid pushing your child too quickly toward accomplishing tasks independently -- especially if she might not be ready. Instead, tell her that with time and some adjustments, she will do well with some skill sets. According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, it will take her longer to complete tasks than it would a child who does not have cerebral palsy, so set reasonable expectations for her for tasks like getting dressed or using the bathroom. Finally, keep in mind that cerebral palsy can cause learning disabilities, so it might be difficult for your child to understand how to accomplish some tasks. Be aware of your child’s struggles to avoid pushing her too far or too quickly.

Recommendations

According to KidsHealth.org, your child might need physical therapy to help him achieve his full potential of independent skills. Other measures, like surgery and leg or back braces, might correct physical problems that make it easier for your child to perform tasks by himself. Early intervention is important to enable your child to work on the challenges he faces, so speak to his doctor about which options will work best.

About the Author

Rose Welton is a journalism major and a freelance writer. Her education is focused on nutrition and early childhood studies, making her an expert when it comes to writing about health and children's growth and development. She has written numerous articles and blog posts on various topics for online publications and has also worked on an Internet news team.

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