Cerebral Palsy Special Needs Factsheet
What Teachers Should Know
Cerebral palsy (CP) affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way). CP is usually caused by brain damage that occurs before or during a child's birth, or during the first few years of life.
How CP affects each person depends on which part or parts of the brain are involved. Some people have only mild impairment, while others are severely affected. For example, brain damage can be limited, affecting only the part of the brain that controls walking, or it can be more extensive, affecting muscle control of the entire body. Although CP doesn't get progressively worse, how it affects a person's body can change as children grow and develop.
About 500,000 people in the United States have CP, making it one of the most common congenital childhood disorders.
Because bullies often target students who seem "different," certain health conditions, including CP, can put kids and teens at higher risk of being bullied.
Kids and teens with CP may:
- have learning disabilities, visual impairments, hearing problems, speech problems, drooling issues, and behavior problems
- need braces, crutches, or a wheelchair to get around
- need help moving around in class or reaching things
- need assistive devices for writing and speaking
- have difficulty sitting still and have uncontrolled movements
- have difficulty with bladder and bowel control and may need to use a bathroom frequently
- have seizures
- need occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), and speech therapy during the school day
What Teachers Can Do
Many students with CP can do the same kinds of things that other kids and teens like to do, such as extracurricular activities, phys-ed, playing or listening to music, hanging out with friends, etc. Students with CP, however, may need a little more time to travel between classes and complete activities and tasks.
Make sure your classroom is easy to get around and free of obstacles.
Students with CP may need to miss class time for doctor visits or to see the school nurse to take medication. Make sure to give special consideration regarding missed instruction, assignments, and testing. In some cases, arranging for verbal responses in assignments and testing can be a good way to measure learning.
Educators, parents, doctors, therapists, and the students with CP should work together to develop and maintain the best treatment and education plans.
Be prepared for possible medical emergencies by planning ahead with parents in case your students with CP need advanced assistance.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.