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Children with cerebral palsy have an increased risk of developing emotional and mental health issues. They suffered brain damage in infancy and face physical challbenges, discomfort, discrimination, and sometimes bullying. Complete treatment for cerebral palsy includes mental health evaluations and treatment.
Why Children with Cerebral Palsy Are at Risk for Emotional Issues
According to Dr. Allan Colver of Newcastle University, Institute of Health and Society, one of the most common reasons children with cerebral palsy are prone to emotional difficulties is brain damage. Brain damage can disrupt the pathways and networks that help regulate emotions.
Another reason children with CP may experience emotional issues is their physical limitations. While their peers can run faster and answer schoolwork questions faster, children with cerebral palsy can feel left behind when they can’t keep up.
Although children with CP may know the answers in class or while doing schoolwork, their physical challenges make it harder for them to complete things at the pace other children do. This can be daunting to any child, but a child with CP often experiences this throughout most of childhood and more often than children who don’t have disabilities.
Children with disabilities are often the target of bullying, usually at school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that children with disabilities are often singled out and bullied because they are “different.”
Children with cerebral palsy who already have limitations on handling their emotions will react even more severely to bullying than children without disabilities who get bullied because they may not be able to express themselves or protect themselves adequately.
This can lead to severe emotional disturbances for children with CP, which affects their school performance and trickles over into their home life.
Parent and Child Interaction
Dr. Colver states that parent-child interaction may also play a significant role in emotional issues for children with cerebral palsy.
For example, Dr. Allen’s study, entitled, “Why are children with cerebral palsy more likely to have emotional and behavioural difficulties?” suggests that parents of children with cerebral palsy are often more stressed than parents of children without disabilities.
Since parental stress is known to cause emotional issues in all children, those with cerebral palsy may have heightened issues.
If you’re a parent and you feel stressed out from caring for a child with cerebral palsy, experts recommended enrolling in classes or groups that can help you. For instance, most cities have local groups where parents of children with disabilities can come together and talk about problems and issues they are facing.
This not only gives you a way to help vent your frustrations, but it allows you to connect with people who are going through the same things. If meeting in person is an obstacle, there are several support groups online, often free, that can allow an outlet for you to communicate with other parents and caregivers.
In addition, professional counseling conducted by a qualified therapist can teach you methods of dealing with stress when it arises. Counseling can also assist you in how to help your child in daily interactions and activities, especially those that may cause stress or emotional issues.
Check with your physician for recommendations for counselors who specialize in helping parents with children who have special needs.
Help For Children With Cerebral Palsy and Emotional Issues
If your child is experiencing emotional difficulties, several therapy options are available that can help. The type of therapy that will work the most effectively will depend on your child’s temperament and individual issues. The following types of therapies can help your child deal with emotional and behavioral issues:
- Behavioral Therapy
- Social Therapy
- Play Therapy
- Recreational Therapy
Each of these therapy options offers different benefits to children, such as how to effectively deal with stress, make friends, delay gratification, overcome emotional trauma, reduce anxiety, and much more.
Another option that helps in connection with therapy is personal counseling. Having a personal counselor that helps a child with individual issues has been shown to help build confidence, treat depression, and help manage emotions.
Consult your child’s physician for recommendations for counselors who specifically specialize in helping children with disabilities.
- Colver, A. (2010). Why Are Children with Cerebral Palsy More Likely to Have Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties? Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. 52, 980-7.
Retrieved from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1469-8749.2010.03721.x#:~:text=A%20common%20view%20is%20that,than%2070%20would%20support%20this.
- Disability and Safety: Information about Bullying. (2019, September 17). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandsafety/bullying.html