A diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP) can be devastating to any parent, but it is important to remember that CP does not affect life expectancy. Many children with CP grow into adulthood and live as many years as the rest of the population. There are some aspects of life that can present additional challenges, however.
Cerebral Palsy Challenges
It is important to keep in mind that there will be challenges for your child with cerebral palsy. These include:
- Assisted or independent living
- Physical fitness and exercise
- Social and romantic relationships
Initially, one of the most frustrating things about these challenges may be the fact that the birth injury that caused your child’s CP never had to happen. If you believe the condition was caused by a doctor’s mistake, a cerebral palsy attorney can determine whether you have a case.
Assisted or Independent Living
One of the biggest fears parents of a child with CP face is whether that child will be able to live on their own. Today, there are many living options for adults with CP. The one that fits your child’s needs will depend on the severity of their condition.
If your child needs around-the-clock care, there are homes that will provide that. Group homes that offer on-site therapy are another option. An adult with mild to moderate CP may be able to live in an apartment in an assisted community or housing offered through support groups. There is also nothing wrong with an adult with CP remaining in the family home for as long as is necessary.
If possible, teach your child basic household chores based on their abilities. Many schools for children with CP offer programs designed to teach basic household skills, such as washing dishes, cooking simple meals, and doing laundry.
Adults with cerebral palsy often have difficulty feeding themselves due to their motor disabilities. This can lead to problems with nutrition and digestive health. Some people with CP often have trouble controlling their lip, tongue, and jaw muscles, while others may suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Adults with CP sometimes suffer from chronic constipation and abdominal pain, while others may have swallowing disorders. Your doctor will more than likely put your child on a specialized diet, and there are many feeding techniques that can improve nutrition. You may want to work with dieticians, feeding therapists, and pediatric dentists to provide your child with the tools necessary for good nutrition in spite of their limitations.
Physical Fitness and Exercise
It is important for adults to remain active as they age, and it is possible for adults with cerebral palsy to do so as well. Your child should participate in physical therapy when they are young in order to improve some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy.
Exercise can increase strength, mobility, and coordination as well as reduce the chance your child will develop other health issues, such as diabetes. Exercise improves mental state as well as cardiovascular health.
Many adults with cerebral palsy join fitness groups and gyms as a way to become involved in the community. Some suggestions for exercising with CP include yoga, Pilates, and Barre classes. Other exercises that are possible for those with mild CP include biking, hiking, or swimming.
Social and Intimate Relationships
CP can make it difficult to create and maintain relationships, whether it is due to low self-esteem, developmental delays, or anxiety about social relationships. There are things that you can do to improve the social aspect of your child’s life that can carry into adulthood.
Expose your child to social activities early. Teach them as you would any other child to wait their turn, use their manners, and share. Schools may offer buddy programs that pair your child with another who will act as their “buddy.”
Play therapy is another great way to encourage your child to interact socially. You can also enroll them in after-school programs, summer camps, or a local Boys and Girls Club. Your library, church, or community center may have programs available as well.
In order to prepare your child for living with cerebral palsy as an adult, getting treatment as soon as possible is the best course of action. With early interventions and plenty of support, many individuals with CP go on to live fulfilling, enriching lives.