Parenting a child with any disability could be challenging, demanding and overwhelming, yet rewarding; more so if the child has a condition like CP which would affect her both physically and mentally.
Cerebral Palsy is a blanket term commonly referred to as “CP” and described by loss or impairment of motor function. Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain damage which is as a result of an injury to the brain or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing either before birth, during birth or immediately after birth. CP is a lifelong disability which has no cure, it can only be managed. CP could be mild, moderate or severe.
So when your child has CP, it means that she will certainly be developmentally delayed. Depending on how much she is affected, she may never be at par with her age mates in a number of ways. If the child is severely affected, the child most times misses out completely on a normal childhood upbringing as she will be constantly taken for therapies and hospital appointments. Saying that this puts a lot of strain on a family is stating the obvious.
It is important to treat the child like every other child. In all honesty this may be difficult as the child most likely may not be able to do anything children her age are doing particularly if she falls in the severe spectrum. Thus, the parents often double as a therapist and caregiver. Teaching the child those basic things that helps integrate them into the society becomes difficult. But for a child with mild CP, she may be able to participate in household chores but with some awkwardness.
As a parent, one of the challenges that confront you is schooling for your child with CP. Most children with CP may not be accepted at regular crèches and day care centres. Some with mild cases may be accepted but parents are encouraged to work hand in hand with the operators on positioning and feeding. For those on the severe spectrum, instead of leaving them at home, it is advisable that they be taken to special day centres where they will receive necessary therapies and care.
Children with CP can learn thus, parents are encouraged to enrol them in schools – the question is which school. The new anthem is Inclusive Education otherwise known as mainstreaming as against special school. It is a system of education that allows every child of school age to have equal and quality education in the same environment. It makes room for children with special needs to be educated alongside other children in a regular classroom. Each child with disability will have her Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). Mainstreaming has a lot of benefits both for the children with disability it allows them the opportunity to interact and make friends with other children.
Inclusion thrives on collaboration between the families, teachers and the school board. There is an attempt in Lagos state at inclusive education but its effectiveness is another issue. The rule of the thumb is to do that which will be of most benefit to the child and works well for the family.