Pushing Children With Cerebral Palsy too Far Can Result in Serious Accidents With Disabling Injuries
Children with cerebral palsy thrive in a mainstream school environment, with modifications to fit their ability and enhance their quality of education. Often, a general education setting offers the least restrictive environment for a child with cerebral palsy and allows these children a chance to learn among their typically developing peers. On the other hand, pushing a child too far, whether in a general education setting or through the administration of rehabilitative therapies, can lead to disastrous consequences. Parents must be advocates for their children in both the educational system and during the supervision of private, supplemental physical therapy.
A child’s treatment in both an educational and medical setting can affect his or her self-confidence and overall health. Knowing the consequences of pushing a child too far in school or therapy can better help parents advocate for their children.How Cerebral Palsy Affects a Developing Body
In order to understand the inherent dangers of pushing a child with CP too far, it’s essential to understand how cerebral palsy can affect a child’s body while he or she is still in the developmental stage. Cerebral palsy is the name given to a series of movement disorders that result from damage to the brain and nervous system. Several types of cerebral palsy exist, though the condition may be spastic (creating hypertonic muscles) or non-spastic (involving hypotonic or fluctuating muscle tone). Additionally, each type of the disorder may be mild, moderate, or severe.
No matter what type of cerebral palsy a child has, he or she usually experiences issues with motor movement. The nature of this dysfunction (muscles that are too stiff, lack mobility, or experience involuntary movement) makes children more prone to severe injury. Notably, children with CP have weakened bones that could experience serious injury under stress.
Cerebral palsy can have several other negative side effects, including:
- Slower or altered growth of the bones or muscles. Nearly half of all people with a diagnosis of CP cannot ambulate independently, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Weight gain or growth that is different from a typically developing child. Infants are slower to gain weight and many children experience slower growth throughout childhood and adolescence.
- The muscles and bones in a child affected by cerebral palsy may not reach their full length, which results in shorter, thinner, and more fragile limbs.
- Children with cerebral palsy are more likely to experience contractures, a painful condition in which a muscle becomes stuck in one position. Contractures also lead to deformities in the joints and bones that cause further issues with growth.
- Children with cerebral palsy are more likely to experience improper growth and development of the spine. This can lead to diagnoses such as scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis. These conditions can be very painful and limit a child’s ability to move.
- Osteoporosis and osteopenia, conditions which affect bone density, may result from a child’s development.
- Finally, children with cerebral palsy are more likely to have a comorbid seizure disorder such as epilepsy. These seizures can greatly affect a child’s quality of life, often require medication, and can lead to further brain damage.
On top of all this, a child with cerebral palsy is likely to experience chronic pain as the result of these complications. In general, children diagnosed with cerebral palsy require modifications to both educational and physical activities that allow them to reach their full potential without the risk of serious injury.Alternatives to Physical Activities
Traditional physical activities can be dangerous for children with cerebral palsy, as they are more likely to experience broken bones or other serious injuries as the result of reduced bone mass and muscle abnormalities. On the other hand, participating in activities at school can help children feel more involved and accepted among their peers. Parents should work with educators to create safe, engaging ways for children to participate at their own pace.
Safety is of utmost concern for parents sending their children to school, especially when that child struggles with a disability such as cerebral palsy. It’s impossible to prevent all accidents, but parents and educators must work together to create an environment that’s safe and helpful to the child. Physical activity is important, but more so is creating safe alternatives that allow a child to participate without the risk of serious injury.
One way parents can discuss this is in an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting. In this meeting of rehabilitative professionals, teachers, administrators, and parents, everyone can collaborate and develop the best alternatives possible for the student. Once the parent signs the IEP, its terms become legally binding. For this reason, it might be a good idea for parents to bring an advocate familiar with the terms of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) who can help keep focus on the child’s best interests.