Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a developmental disability resulting from damage to the brain that may occur before, during, or after birth. Cerebral Palsy is characterized by the loss of control over voluntary muscles in the body, and affects such as activities as sitting, standing, grasping, and eating.  Cerebral Palsy is characterized by shaking movements called tremors; or rigid, slow, and stiff contraction of muscles. Joints may also become fixed in abnormal positions. A short frustration tolerance is a behavioral manifestation of this disorder. Approximately 25% to 50% of all people with Cerebral Palsy will experience learning difficulties. About 50% will also experience seizures. There are four types of Cerebral Palsy. They are: Spastic, Athetoid, Ataxic and Mixed.

It is important to remember that a wide range of functioning exists in all types of CP, and that limited functioning may affect one part of the body more than others.  CP can also co-exist with other conditions such as Mental Retardation and Epilepsy. Caring for an individual with CP requires training in proper positioning, lifting, carrying, and handling.  There may be a need for adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, adapted brushes, combs, eating utensils, and the removal of architectural barriers. The use of language boards or picture exchange systems can facilitate communication.

Individuals with CP have needs related to their unique development, motor, and sensory difficulties. Common difficulties associated with CP include delayed motor skills, abnormal motor movement, tactile sensitivities (which result in their not liking to be "cuddled" easily), and some learning disabilities.  It is important for respite providers to discuss the unique needs of each person with parents/guardians. Specific routines, positioning, feeding, educational, and general care techniques should be discussed fully. In general, be aware of facilitating motor development by encouraging sitting, crawling, and walking at appropriate stages and with a supportive therapy plan. Provide incentives for the individual to move and explore.

When interacting with a person with CP, talk slowly in a conversational pattern. Allow adequate time for a response and learn each person's unique communication signals. Always inform the individual about what you are going to do before you do it, and use objects and pictures to reinforce communication if necessary. Be sensitive to physical fatigue that can aggravate symptoms and always use appropriate lifting, transporting, and safety precautions.

Funding for this program provided by the Department of Health and Human Services