Children with cerebral palsy are no different than any other child. They want to fit in, make friends, and be accepted by peers. Yet, due to their disorder, some children with cerebral palsy may develop emotional issues when daily challenges arise. Parents and caregivers of children with CP have the important role of understanding these difficulties and working actively to ensure children with emotional problems have a positive support system, and if needed, the correct medical 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 more prone to emotional difficulties is due to brain damage. When brain damage occurs, pathways and networks that help regulate emotions may be disrupted.
Another reason children with CP may experience emotional issues is due to their physical limitations. While their peers are able to run faster and answer school work 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 school work, 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, and as much as parents try to shield them from such actions, it still tends to happen, usually at school. Children with cerebral palsy who already have limitations on handling their emotions will react even more severely to bullying as opposed to children without disabilities who get bullied, because they may not be able to properly express themselves or protect themselves. This can lead to severe emotional disturbances for children with CP, that not only affects their school performance, but trickles over into their home life as well.
Parent and Child Interaction
Dr. Colver states that parent-child interaction may also play a big 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, it’s recommended to enroll 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 to connect with people who are going through the same things. If meeting in person is an obstacle, there are a number of support groups online, often free, that can allow an outlet for you to communicate with other parents and/or caregivers.
In addition, professional counseling conducted by a qualified therapist can teach you methods in 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, there are a number of therapy options available that can help. The following types of therapies can help your child deal with emotional problems, but keep in mind the type of therapy that will work the most effectively will depend on your child’s temperament and individual issues.
- Behavioral Therapy
- Social Therapy
- Play Therapy
- Recreational Therapy
Each of these therapy options offer 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 which can be completed in connection with therapy is personal counseling. Having a personal counselor that helps a child with individual issues has 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.