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How to Care for a Child With Cerebral Palsy

Medically Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on May 31, 2021

Children with cerebral palsy have special needs. Although your child’s doctors and therapists handle much of their treatment, there are big ways you can lend a hand to make your child’s life easier.

Cerebral palsy (CP) affects each person in a different way, so no two families have the exact same experience when they become involved in their child’s care. Whether your little one has mild or severe CP, there are a number of ways that you can help them do their best.

Stay on Top of Their Care

Your child may see a number of health care providers, from pediatricians to specialists to therapists and beyond. One doctor likely will refer them to others for treatment and keep tabs on the care that they receive elsewhere. But it’s wise for you to stay informed about your child’s health, too.

Many doctors prefer for parents to be very involved in the care of children with CP. You’ll help make health decisions, learn which treatments and therapies work, and see when a treatment is a success or has setbacks. When doctors count you as a crucial part of the team, you’re more likely to feel pleased with your child’s care.

Be Your Child’s at-Home Therapist

With guidance from doctors, physical therapists and other health care workers, therapy time doesn’t have to end when your time slot is over. If you learn the proper ways to help your child exercise at home, you can help them stretch their muscles, build balance and reduce pain between office visits.

If your child has pain from muscle spasms, massage may help, so you may want to learn some basic techniques.

Help Them Be Active

Your child may not be able to play sports at the same level as their peers, but it’s important to get them moving to the best of their ability. Help them walk (if they can), play, and move as much as possible.

Teach them new skills, and they may use their muscles in new ways. Being active may strengthen their muscles, and it may help lead to fewer muscle spasms. People who are active have fewer health problems than people who never move around, so it’s a win-win situation.

Help Them Expand Their Mind

Help your child broaden their world:

  • Go to museums.
  • Work on art projects.
  • Listen to all types of music.
  • Play games together -- or create your own games.

Give your child a chance to take on an active role when you try new things. This type of experience may help them learn new skills, think about a problem from another angle, and have more self-esteem.

Focus on Diet

It’s wise to serve healthy food that can help strengthen bones and muscles. Some children with cerebral palsy may have weak bones. This is more likely among children who aren’t able to walk. Your child’s doctor may prescribe medicine, but calcium-rich foods may help bone strength, too.

Keep a Bright Outlook

A child with cerebral palsy won’t be able to do all of the things that their siblings or peers can do, but they shouldn’t be upset by this or focus on their limits. Instead, help them realize all of the things that they’re able to do on their own or with help.

If you always keep a positive attitude, your child should stay positive, too. If your child becomes focused on their setbacks and limitations, seek mental health care early. People with cerebral palsy are more likely to be depressed.

Get to Know Other Parents

You’re likely to meet other moms and dads in the doctor’s office or a physical therapist’s waiting room. There are plenty of online support groups for parents of children with CP. It can help to build friendships with parents who are dealing with the same issues.

Other parents of children with cerebral palsy may be able to suggest new doctors, offer advice, or give honest reviews about drugs or braces. They might lift your spirits on tough days. Not only that, your children may become friends.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

BMJ: “Cerebral palsy: what parents and doctors want to know.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Cerebral palsy.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Cerebral palsy: Hope through research.”

Nemours Foundation: “Cerebral palsy.”

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