The Power of Encouragement for Cerebral Palsy Patients

handsSince there is no cure, living with cerebral palsy is about symptom management and improving quality of life. While many focus on the medical treatments available, such as physical therapy, surgeries, and medications, it is crucial to also use a more personal approach: the power of encouragement. Children and adults with cerebral palsy need to feel the support and praise of loved ones to increase their self-esteem and confidence. A little encouragement can go a long way with a child who has cerebral palsy.

Cerebral Palsy and Depression

Even with modern advances in medical technology, cerebral palsy is still an incurable disability. Patients with cerebral palsy may be able to improve their motor skills, mobility, speech, and other impairments with lifelong therapies, but they will always be different from those without cerebral palsy. This fact can lead many patients to suffer from depression, anxiety, and social problems such as a lack of acceptance.

People with physical health conditions and disabilities are more likely to struggle with barriers to social acceptance. Combined with the frustrations that can come from living with cerebral palsy daily, social exclusion can lead to depression and other mental health problems. Children and adolescents with cerebral palsy are especially susceptible to depression and anxiety. Health problems, motor skill impairments, cognitive deficiencies, and physical limitations can separate children from their peers and make them feel alienated or not good enough.

If you notice weight loss, appetite changes, lack of interest in favorite hobbies, tiredness, behavioral outbursts, or excessive crying, your child with cerebral palsy could have depression. Sometimes, overcoming the mental and emotional challenges of cerebral palsy takes a bit of outside encouragement. Showing your loved one with cerebral palsy - especially a child - that he or she is not alone, can change the way your child sees the world. Show your loved one your support, care, and encouragement through difficult times, rather than relying on antidepressant medications alone.

How Stress Can Affect Those With Cerebral Palsy

Children with cerebral palsy can also experience a great deal of anxiety, tension, and stress. Stress can occur due to nervousness in social situations (such as going to school), feeling overwhelmed by one's disabilities, or simply from the daily pressures of life with cerebral palsy. Excessive stress can take over a child's life, interfering with school, activities, relationships with others, and progress during different types of therapies.

Stress is such a common issue in children with cerebral palsy that certain therapies specifically aim to alleviate it. Music therapy, for example, can reduce stress in children with cerebral palsy and help them express their emotions more freely. As a parent or loved one, you also have the power to take the burden of stress from the shoulders of someone with cerebral palsy. Lending your mental and emotional support during tough times can be enough to reduce stress and help your loved one focus on other things, such as therapies or favorite activities.

Showing your loved one that he or she does not have to face overwhelming or stressful situations alone can make a world of difference for someone with cerebral palsy. Encouragement such as showing a child with cerebral palsy inspiring stories of others with the condition can express to the individual that he or she can be an artist, an athlete, and many other fulfilling occupations if he/she does not let stress get in the way. Sometimes all it takes are a few words of encouragement to calm someone down and help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Does Encouragement Really Have Power?

Encouragement can spark something almost more important than medical intervention in someone with cerebral palsy: hope. Hope is something every child with cerebral palsy deserves. Hope can help children cope with the limitations they have because of cerebral palsy in healthy ways. It can aid in combatting depression and anxiety, and even help patients heal. Believing in oneself can release endorphins in the brain that act similarly to morphine. These endorphins may have the power to mask pain and improve motor function.

Hope, belief, and expectation hold real power for someone living with cerebral palsy. As a caregiver for someone with cerebral palsy, you can be a beacon of encouragement and help your loved one lead an independent, fulfilling life. Provide your loved one with the tools he or she needs to feel independent. Investing in therapy, for example, can allow someone with cerebral palsy get closer to normal daily life. This can generate positive feelings of self-worth and freedom.

Always speak to your loved one positively and encouragingly. Demonstrate to others - especially teachers and other parents - how to speak normally and positively to someone with cerebral palsy, rather than speaking to the person like he or she is abnormal or slow. The things you do to encourage your child or loved one through the trials and challenges of cerebral palsy can make a remarkable difference in the long-term quality of life.