How To Cope With A CP Diagnosis
For parents who just found out that their child has cerebral palsy, this news can be overwhelming. While some families may be relieved to have a formal diagnosis after months (or even years) without answers, every reaction is different.
Some parents might feel like their world is crashing down on them, or that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
My question for you is, why?
Panic, fear and maybe even a little anger are common reactions. However, the most important thing for parents to realize is that a cerebral palsy diagnosis is not the end of the world. In fact, there are countless business leaders, musicians, artists, designers and more who have gone on to lead exceptional lives — despite their CP diagnosis.
To give you a little insight into my story, I’m an adult with cerebral palsy. But, I didn’t let that stop me from achieving my dreams. I went to a great college, got a job as a programmer analyst for an IT company and was there for fourteen years. Now, I spend most of my time raising awareness for disabilities. I am a nationwide speaker, published author of the book “They Said We Couldn’t” (available on Amazon), Youtuber, and I also started a website to help educate and motivate people with any kind of disability.
Parents, the important thing to remember after finding out the news is: don’t panic!
While it’s normal to be scared in the beginning, it’s important to get out of this stage as soon as possible. Your outlook on this condition is a very important part of how your child will grow up and see their own potential and self-worth.
I have four tips for any parent of a child with CP that will allow your child to have the best life ever:
1. Educate the Entire Family About Cerebral Palsy
This first step sounds like common sense. But, you’d be surprised how many times only one parent or family member is doing the bulk of the research on cerebral palsy.
The whole family should understand what CP is and how it affects a child – not just mom or dad.
Sometimes family members struggle relating to someone with CP. For example, if you have a boy, a dad’s dreams are usually to teach their son how to play baseball or football. After doing some research about CP, a father’s dreams of playing catch might be modified a little bit, but they won’t be broken. Reseach can help ease any worries a parent or caregiver has about their child’s future.
When the whole family is involved, the responsibility of caring for your child isn’t stuck on one person. For example, my dad was a truck driver and he didn't come home at a regular time. On days when he made it home before dinner, my dad would help feed me dinner. I loved that.
Little things like this make all the difference.
2. Get Your Child Therapy Early On
For parents of a young child with CP, finding physical, occupational, speech or alternative types of therapy should be your number one priority. With cerebral palsy, a child's muscles will start to develop patterns. Each pattern can be good or bad. If you get your child into a therapy program while they’re still young, their muscles can learn more good patterns.
You can go to your therapist’s office for these sessions, or therapy can be done at home. The more therapy your child gets at a young age, the more things they will learn to do.
Your child might scream or cry when you try to get them to do therapy. (On a side note, I HATED doing therapy with a passion.) If your child is like me, put a video on or play a game. This might distract their focus to something fun so they can receive the therapy they need.
3. Encourage Your Child To Be The Best Version of Themselves
Parents, it’s essential to remind yourself of one thing: your child has a life to live.
If you allow your child to do everything they desire, they will do those things. If you have other kids and they see what their sibling is doing, they will improve too.
This pattern of encouragement will only happen if you treat your child with CP the same way you treat your other children, or any child for that matter. Allow them to help out around the house, include them in family outings or activities, and make sure they know that they are a valued member of the family. This will set the groundwork for your child to set goals — and reach them — throughout their entire life.
4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Taking care of someone with cerebral palsy is hard work. Among other things, this can put a toll on a marriage or a household overall.
Parents, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You also shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions because this is what doctors, specialists, and various CP support organizations, are there for. Take all the time you can to research how your child’s cerebral palsy will affect their life so you can move forward feeling informed and hopeful for the future.
I don’t want to paint a black and white picture of life — but, if you work together as a whole family and keep the lines of communication open, your picture of life will be painted with trillions of beautiful colors.
Now, what were you afraid of again?