Living with Cerebral Palsy: Needs and Challenges of Individuals

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects movement, muscle tone, and posture. It can cause difficulty in walking, sitting with a straight back, and even speaking. Ataxic cerebral palsy affects balance and depth perception, while dysphagia is a condition that affects the muscles that open and close the mouth, move the lips and tongue, and make it difficult to chew and swallow food. People with cerebral palsy may also have gastroesophageal reflux, in which stomach acid rises into the esophagus, making eating uncomfortable or painful.

This can be managed with medication. In some cases, individuals may need to be fed through a feeding tube. In addition to physical challenges, cerebral palsy can also affect learning. This includes a short attention span, motor planning difficulties (organization and sequencing), perceptual difficulties, language difficulties, literacy, numeracy, and other skills.

Coordinating and communicating fine motor skills and gross motor skills can also be difficult for those with cerebral palsy. As a result, they may tire more easily than others. Behavioral problems occur in 1 in 4 children with cerebral palsy. Those with an intellectual disability, epilepsy, severe pain, or milder physical disability are at greater risk of developing problem behaviors such as dependency, hyperactivity, anxiety, or antisocial behavior.

Abnormalities of the spine and hips are associated with cerebral palsy and can make it difficult to sit, stand and walk, as well as cause chronic pain. Those who use wheelchairs most of the time are more at risk of hip problems than those who walk with assistive devices or on their own. People with cerebral palsy may also have difficulty forming relationships due to self-esteem issues, developmental delays, social anxiety, premature aging, and other factors. The heart and arteries have to work harder to deal with the challenges of cerebral palsy.

This can lead to difficulty speaking due to coordination issues with the muscles around the mouth and tongue. People with cerebral palsy may also have difficulty using cutlery or holding a cup due to fine motor skill issues. Exercise is important for those living with cerebral palsy as it can improve mobility limitations, movement and overall health. It is important to discuss your exercise plan with your doctor before starting any type of exercise program so that it fits your individual needs and current physical condition. Epilepsy is more common in those with an intellectual disability and cerebral palsy; 48% of children have both conditions.

While a diagnosis of cerebral palsy may surprise parents, this condition can be managed with appropriate treatment and ongoing care. Symptoms include uncontrolled or unpredictable movements, muscles that are stiff, weak or tense, shaky movements or tremors. Depending on the severity of the person's cerebral palsy and the nature of their work, the workplace will have to make certain adaptations. Cerebral Palsy Guide was founded to educate families about cerebral palsy, raise awareness about it, and provide support to children, parents and caregivers affected by it. There are many ways to effectively control the symptoms of cerebral palsy that would allow for a healthy, happy and full life.