This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
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There will come a point in time when your child with cerebral palsy becomes an adult. This time in life comes with struggles for everyone, but kids with cerebral palsy are particularly vulnerable to difficulties and challenges with this transition. The more you know about how to help your child through this special milestone, the easier it will be when the time comes.
The Goal of Moving from Childhood to Adulthood
The most important aspect of transitioning into adulthood is making sure a younger person has access to resources that can provide secondary education information or job training and, eventually, housing and living independently (if applicable). Children with cerebral palsy also need an added measure of security, including the confidence and social skills to talk with others and take advantage of opportunities.
Therefore, the journey of preparing children with cerebral palsy for adulthood generally starts around age 14, earlier than most other children. This ensures that they have ample time to gain the confidence needed and skills needed that will help them transition into adulthood more easily.
Money management is one of the biggest aspects of adulthood and the sooner your child learns about it, the easier it will be once they reach adulthood. While they’ll probably learn addition and subtraction while in elementary school, once they reach their teens, consider opening a bank account for them and showing them how bank deposits, withdrawals, and managing their account works.
Equally important, teaching all children, including those with cerebral palsy, about bill payments will help prepare them for the future. There are numerous websites online that help children learn about money and bill payments, but for children with cerebral palsy, it’s recommended to find someone who specializes in teaching children with disabilities about money management and bill payments.
Independent living for those with cerebral palsy encompasses a wide variety of scenarios, including:
- Living in a personal home
- Living in a group home or in an assisted living setting
- Living with relatives
- Living with roommates
- Income-based public housing
No matter what choice your child may make, you can start helping them learn to live independently early on. Of course, each child’s journey with cerebral palsy is different, and there are various factors that need to be considered as they can affect their living situation, including:
- Access to transportation
- The ability or inability to cook for themselves and carry out daily living and housekeeping tasks
- The ability to maintain a job and make an income
For instance, if your child will more than likely always need assistance with meals and other daily living tasks, living with caregivers, relatives, or in an assisted living home is a better option than them living in their own personal home.
Depending on the severity of their symptoms, ability to perform daily tasks, and access to transportation, living independently can still be accomplished for many and made easier with the help of hired help such as personal assistants, cooks, maids, and other professionals.
Helping your child learn the skills needed to live independently early on will help them boost their confidence and provide them with an overall sense of well-being regardless of where they live. You can start now by allowing your child do as much as possible on his/her own.
A common myth is that children with cerebral palsy will never be able to make enough money in adulthood to sustain themselves, which is absolutely untrue. In fact, with Internet access, more and more people with disabilities are able to secure employment at home, and numerous employers offer positions that take into consideration a person’s disability.
Start early by instilling a good work ethic in your child, whether it be making sure they complete home chores or school assignments. The Centers for Independent Living (CIL) offers boundless resources for people with disabilities to help them make money and become independent , including:
- Job training
- Special needs scholarships for college
- Employment opportunities and referral services
- Counseling and emotional support
If for any reason your child is unable to work or find employment, there are many government resources that can still help them achieve independence, including social security disability insurance (SSDI), the food stamp program, medical insurance, and rental assistance.
Transitioning to Adulthood with Cognitive Issues and Immobility
Not all children with cerebral palsy will have the ability to live on their own or earn money on their own. Sometimes cognitive and/or emotional issues limit people with cerebral palsy from becoming independent and finding gainful employment.
Or perhaps they are completely immobile and don’t have the ability to get to and from work. Cerebral palsy covers a broad range of symptoms and associated diseases, ranging from mild to severe, and with that, comes different limitations in what children can do when transitioning into adulthood.
Government assistance is an option for people with developmental disabilities  and it doesn’t have to start when the child reaches adult age. For information on government assistance, refer to our article, Cerebral Palsy and Government Assistance.
In an ideal situation, people who cannot live independently will have a home with a family member or loved one. Of course, being a caretaker 24/7 is not an easy task, but the payoff of security and stability can be very helpful as the child transitions to adulthood. Hiring assistants and other caretakers to come to provide relief for family caregivers can be very helpful in managing caregiver strain.
Sometimes, caring for an adult with cerebral palsy becomes too overwhelming as additional needs and issues arise. Sometimes elderly parents cannot physically care for their dependent children as they grow older.
Cerebral palsy residential living centers generally have medical staff, counselors, and therapists on hand to help ensure each person is taken care of. There are private residential centers as well as state-funded living facilities. These may be good options for some individuals as well.
- ILRU directory of centers for independent living (CILs) and associations. (n.d.). Independent Living Research Utilization.
Retrieved from: https://www.ilru.org/projects/cil-net/cil-center-and-association-directory
- Federal programs for persons with disabilities. (2017, February 21). ASPE. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Retrieved from: https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/federal-programs-persons-disabilities