What does CP mean for my child?
Your child is still your child, that will never change.
They will still learn, grow and flourish.
Every person living with cerebral palsy is unique. No child is the same.
Cerebral palsy affects everyone differently, and it can range widely in severity; from children who experiences limitation in running and sports, to children who have limitation in sitting upright and walking. If you've read the 'What is CP', you now also know that movement difficulties that children experience are varied, and there can be a range of associated difficulties too.
There is one important factor that is common across most children with CP- that movement for these children requires more effort and thought. This means that before a child with CP moves, they are currently thinking about how they are going to use each part of their body to their best potential so that they can do an intentional movement successfully.
All children flourish in loving, stimulating environments where they develop positive self-esteem, learn to do things for themselves and see themselves as active and engaged young people in their community. Similarly children living with cerebral palsy flourish and grow in environments and with people where they are actively engaged in their learning and see themselves as "can do" children. This takes knowledge and skill development for both the parents and child.
Your child has the capacity to do what they want to do.
Your child can do what the other children are doing.
The only thing that is different
Is how they get there and how they are going to do it.
What does CP mean for me?
For parents, the best thing to do is to get good quality advice from medical professionals and support from a range of people early.
Parenting is already tricky to navigate. On top of parenting, you will also be taking care of a child with cerebral palsy and that can be very overwhelming at times. Children with CP will need a lot of attention at home, and there may be medical visits, therapies, NDIS and schools to coordinate.
Do not be afraid to reach out for help and do not be afraid to speak up. When someone asks you “Can I help?”, don’t be afraid to be open and say yes. There is always a community out there for you, whether that is family, friends or even other parents who have children with CP. Remember, there is always support for you out there.
If you would like to get more information about the supports available, please visit:
It is important that you take care of yourself, both physically and mentally, so that you can care for your child and your family.
Who can help?
The goal of care for children, teens and adults living with cerebral palsy is to ensure good quality of life by:
Maximizing independence in activities of daily life
Maximizing active participation in daily life across all environments and in the community
Preventing secondary conditions that affects the body structures (e.g., scoliosis from poor sitting posture)
Managing pain or any other medical conditions associated with your CP
To help achieve those goals, it requires a team approach and working together with you (the parents/carers) therapists, doctors and nurses.
Depending on needs, your child may be seen by all these people, others may only be 1 or 2. Different professionals are also helpful at different stages of your child’s life. Not every child needs assistance from all these people. For children with complex needs, it is important that your therapists work together in planning and providing management.
Maternal Child Health Nurse
Other medical specialist
Paediatric Rehab Specialist
You, the parents, are the most important people in a child’s life. Parents knows the most about their children and is able to give them the love, support and security that a child need. For day-to-day activities, parents are able to incorporate suggestions from the doctors and therapist into daily routine.
Maternal and Child Health Nurse
Maternal and child health nurses will work with your family to help you care for your child until they are ready to start school.
They will monitor your child’s growth and development, and identify if there are any development delays. They can also give information, support and advice on a variety of topics (including parenting, development and learning, child health, family health and wellbeing, breastfeeding and nutrition).
Your Maternal and child health nurse can help support you with getting linked in with doctors, paediatricians and services as required.
There are local centres in your community that you can visit to help identify any issues and concerns so that steps can be taken in early childhood to deal with them.
For more information and to find your local centres, please visit https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/maternal-and-child-health-services
Paediatrician are doctors who specialises in everything about children. Paediatricians can provide advice conditions that occur in children with CP. They will also work closely with others who are involved in your child’s care. Paediatricians can make referrals to other specialists as required.
Other Medical Specialist
These specialists may be helpful at different points in your child’s life depending on your child’s need:
A surgeon specialising in muscles, joints and bones of the body
A specialist that diagnoses and manages conditions related to the lungs and breathing
A specialist that diagnoses and manages conditions related to the brain and nerves
A specialist that diagnoses and manages conditions related to the gut and other parts of the digestive system
Paediatric Rehab Specialist
Paediatric Rehab Specialists are responsible for providing assessment and recommending treatments for children with limitations in function or disability. They work under Rehabilitation Medicine department where their main role is to ensure that your child’s function and independence is at the best that it can be. Paediatric Rehab Specialist may recommend other allied health professionals, and prescribe medications or specialised equipment depending on your child’s needs.
A speech pathologist focuses on children with speech challenges, difficulty understanding speech and swallowing difficulties. They provide advice on how to encourage development in communication and language, develop social skills, safely manage mealtimes and saliva control.
A physiotherapist provides advice on how to encourage a child to move and develop gross motor skills such as sitting, crawling, walking, sports skills etc. Physiotherapists may also provide advice on positioning during play and eating. Physiotherapist can prescribe suitable footwear and splints for posture and gait, or supportive equipment such as wheelchair, walkers and chairs.
An occupational therapist can help with hand skills, activities of the daily living (self-care), play and social development. Occupational therapist provides advice on how easier ways to complete self-care tasks such as bathing, toileting, feeding and dressing, and eventually how to encourage your child to become more independent with these tasks. As your child gets older, an occupational therapist will work on kinder and school skills such as handwriting.
A social worker can help families with information about services and entitlements that are available for them, and support families in finding appropriate childhood intervention programs, kinder and schools. A social worker can also help you link with other families who have been through similar experiences, provide counselling and advocacy support.
An orthotist works closely with families, doctors and physiotherapist on determining the best splinting or brace for children who need it. The orthotist is responsible for designing, altering and making adjustments for the brace to ensure it continues to fit the children as your child grows. They can also recommend specialised footwear.
An ophthalmologist assesses vision, manages eye disorders and prescribe glasses or necessary treatment for your child’s eyes.
A dietician manages your child nutrition. Excessive weight can be disadvantageous for children learning to walk. Under nutrition or inability to make adequate weight gains may be related to feeding difficulties and can impact a child’s growth. Dietician can provide advice on how to ensure your child is getting adequate nutrition.
An audiologist assesses hearing and works with ear specialists to help manage your child’s hearing. An audiologist can help if you notice that your child is not responding consistently to sound.
A psychologist provides support with your child’s progress in learning, emotional and social development. If you are concerned your child’s emotional wellbeing or behaviour difficulties at home or at school, a psychologist or behavioural specialist can help.
If you would like more information about who can help you, please visit https://blogs.rch.org.au/neurodevelopment-and-disability/files/2016/09/151025-Cerebral-Palsy-booklet_WEB.pdf-