This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatrician. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
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Although it is one of the most common childhood congenital disorders in the world, cerebral palsy myths and false information persist. It is important for parents especially to know what it really means to have cerebral palsy. These are some common myths and the real truths behind them.
Children Who Have Cerebral Palsy Will Be in a Wheelchair
Although there are children with severe cerebral palsy who use a wheelchair, many others can walk and run without any assistance. Cerebral palsy can be extremely mild to severe and anywhere in between.
It is usually too soon to tell whether an infant will be able to walk when older.
Children With Cerebral Palsy Cannot Talk
Again, some children with cerebral palsy may not be able to speak. Since the disorder has varying degrees of severity, this certainly does not apply to all children with cerebral palsy.
Even children with cerebral palsy who have limited talking abilities can still communicate in several different ways. Communication boards, sign language, and electronic tablets are among the numerous communication methods children can use.
Children With Cerebral Palsy Are All Hearing Impaired
While it’s true that cerebral palsy increases the risks of a child having hearing problems, some children with the disorder have perfect hearing. Again, there are varying degrees of cerebral palsy, and the associated risk factors of developing other impairments depend on the severity of the child’s cerebral palsy.
In addition, some children may have problems with communication yet can hear perfectly fine. Often, children who cannot communicate correctly are mistakenly thought of as hearing impaired as well, but this is not always true.
Cerebral Palsy Is Contagious
Cerebral palsy is not contagious. It never will be. You cannot “catch” cerebral palsy by touching or hugging a child with the disorder.
Cerebral palsy causes vary, but it’s not because a baby was held by someone with cerebral palsy or because a mother with cerebral palsy breastfed her infant.
Most Parents Find Caring For a Child With Cerebral Palsy Too Overwhelming
Caring for any child can be overwhelming at times. While caring for a child with disabilities can add additional stress on parents and loved ones, there are many resources available for families.
Resources that can help families handle the stresses that come along with caring for a child with cerebral palsy include:
- Government family support programs
- Government cash assistance programs
- Recreational activities for children with special needs
- Special education assistance
- Respite care
- Non-profit family support groups (United Cerebral Palsy offers a wide range of services for families)
Children With Cerebral Palsy Do Not Make Friends
This is not only misleading, but it can also be hurtful if a child hears an adult or anyone else say that they’ll never make friends. Children with cerebral palsy can attend regular, public, and private schools just as any other child and can make friends.
A loving home environment goes a long way in helping children with cerebral palsy feel confident and secure enough in themselves to reach out to other children. Make sure you are not treating a child with cerebral palsy as different from the other kids. It also helps to introduce them to other children with disabilities.
Career Choices Are Limited For Children With Cerebral Palsy
In 1997, the government renewed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law promises that children with special needs will get the appropriate education needed. In addition, there have been tremendous improvements in workplace disability laws, making it easier than ever for children to obtain and keep gainful employment once they grow up.
Many adults with cerebral palsy obtain gainful employment and reach heights that many people with cerebral palsy haven’t achieved. For instance, Tyler Sexton of Florida was born with severe cerebral palsy. His mother remembers feeling devastated when physicians told her he would probably need a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
“I let go of a normal little boy. I was mourning a broken heart. I was mourning the life I dreamed about: the white picket fence and two beautiful kids playing in the yard.”
Yet 25 years after diagnosis, Tyler received his doctorate of medicine degree, which still proudly hangs on display in his mother’s house.
Children with Cerebral Palsy Are Mentally Challenged
The previous story is just one indication that this myth is untrue. While it’s true that some children with cerebral palsy will have learning disabilities and other cognitive challenges, this all depends on associating factors with the disorder and does not include every child. In fact, many children with cerebral palsy score above average on aptitude tests scores.
My Child’s Cerebral Palsy Can Be Cured
This is one myth that, while it would be nice if it were true, simply isn’t so, at least not yet. There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy. However, this doesn’t mean that your child cannot have a healthy and productive life.
There are so many medical advances today that most children with cerebral palsy continue to thrive and lead happy lives through physical therapy, counseling, medications, and more.