The Stages of Growth
The transition from childhood to adulthood is a challenging time for anyone – but this is especially true for children with cerebral palsy.
Parents raising a child with CP should begin developing a plan early on that centers on preparing children to enter school, the workforce and live independently and confidently on their own.
Children with a disability often find it more difficult to be self-sufficient, and co-occurring disorders may impede learning at a normal pace. Special education, therapy and continued care can help foster a smooth progression into adulthood for individuals with CP.
Raising a child with a disability requires a great amount of time, effort and patience. Children with cerebral palsy may fall behind important educational milestones and this could make it harder for them to stay on track with their peers in the future.
Having a plan for sustaining mental and physical development is a fundamental aspect in children with CP.
Beginning to instill life lessons as early as toddlerhood can help make the future transition into teen and adult years less challenging for both children and parents.
Tips to Ease Transition During Early Childhood
- Locate a trained pediatrician and therapist to provide medical and emotional support during toddlerhood
- Begin socializing and crafting friendships and relationships early on so that children can gain confidence and communication skills
- Focus on strengthening motor skills, movement and coordination through various types of treatment and therapy
- Create an individualized special education program as early as preschool based on child’s strengths and limitations
Early childhood is a critical time of development for those with cerebral palsy. Focusing as early as possible on ways to expand life skills and independence will help ensure that a child with cerebral palsy is well equipped for the teen years and adulthood.
Each child’s transition into their teen years will be unique, but individuals with cerebral palsy are likely to encounter added obstacles during this adjustment.
While most teenagers are naturally inclined to be moody or emotional during this stage, teens with CP may also face added emotional stressors. It can be difficult for teens with CP to socialize or be independent if they have physical limitations. This can be very frustrating if the teen starts to feel like they are different than their peers.
When a child with a disability begins to mature into a teenager, he or she will experience physical and emotional changes that can delay development. It is important that parents of children with CP are proactive in supporting and planning for the future during a child’s entry into their teen years.
Tips to Ease Transition During Teen Years
- Continue to work with the school system to enroll in any specialized programs that hone in on communication and life skills
- Encourage and reward independence and self-sufficiency
- Help develop coping skills
- Ensure that the child can articulate their medical history and needs without the help of a parent or caretaker
- Utilize treatments such as occupational therapy to improve everyday functions and fine motor skills
During teen years, emphasizing independence is extremely important, as parents are beginning to prepare a child with CP for entry into living on their own. Take advantage of the support available through school systems, health care providers or therapists. This will allow a child with cerebral palsy to be prepared for the next stage of their life.
The years before entering adulthood can be overwhelming for anyone. It’s important to provide a teenager who has CP with the skills and confidence to live a life that’s as normal as possible.
Entering the early stages of adulthood entails a great deal of planning for the future. For a parent of a child with CP, setting the groundwork for this transition is extremely important.
A young adult with cerebral palsy may feel excited for the future and the ability to live on their own, but may also face physical or social limitations. On the contrary, they may be hesitant to leave home and experience anxiety or discomfort when thinking about being on their own.
It’s important for parents to be sensitive to how their child with CP is adapting to early adulthood and help make this stage in life as easy as possible for them. Strengthening mental and physical capabilities will allow individuals with cerebral palsy to enter the workforce or continue their education.
Tips to Ease Transition During Early Adulthood
- Enroll a child with CP in workforce development programs to help assess career plans and provide skill training
- Obtain adapted driver’s license for individuals with a disability or provide navigational skills for local transportation system
- Prepare for transitioning from a specialized pediatric health care facility to an adult care physician, as well as making any therapy adjustments necessary
- Research colleges that accommodate those with disabilities
- Meet with a career counselor to inquire about occupations recommended for individuals with cerebral palsy
- Instill skills needed to maintain a house or apartment, such as paying rent and bills
- Continue to practice life skills and establish independence
Individuals with cerebral palsy should begin preparing for adulthood as early as 16 years old. Their future plans and preparation should be based only on their interests and individualized needs according to the type of CP and symptoms they have.
Start Planning For The Future
The transition from childhood to early adulthood is an eventful journey with many exciting milestones. For parents of children with cerebral palsy, it’s important to realize that while there may be additional obstacles to overcome, the rewards will be just as significant.
By fine-tuning skills such as communication, mobilization and self-sufficiency, parents are helping to set their child up for success. The last step of having a child with cerebral palsy enter early adulthood is letting go and supporting them as they navigate through life on their own terms.
To learn more about how to support a child with CP as they reach adulthood, try downloading our free Cerebral Palsy Guide. This includes over 12 pages of in-depth information for children and parents of a child with CP.