About cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy describes a disorder that affects the way a person moves. Cerebral palsy occurs when there is damage to the brain when it is developing, and it affects a child’s ability to control their muscles. It is the most common form of physical disability in childhood.
A child with cerebral palsy may face challenges with muscle weakness and stiffness. Some children might have trouble with slowness or shakiness, and they may not be able to control their movement. Balance, coordination and walking can be also be difficult. Cerebral palsy can affect different parts of the body. Some children may have trouble with motor control on one side of their body, some may have challenges with both sides, and some may have challenges that affect only the lower part of their body.
About one third of children with cerebral palsy also have epilepsy, which means that they have recurring seizures. There are different types of epilepsy, and they affect children in different ways. Some children may stare blankly or look as if they are daydreaming during a seizure. For some children, a seizure may involve stiffness or jerking movements. Some children will benefit from medication, which means that seizures may be rare. If a child in your group has epilepsy, ask the child's parents and support team about how you can recognise a seizure and what to do.
What might be some strengths?
- Students with cerebral palsy have different strengths depending on how they might be affected by the condition.
- Some students with cerebral palsy will have typical language and thinking skills and can learn like any other child (with adjustments to assist with motor challenges).
- Some children with cerebral palsy may be good at managing challenges in their environment so that they can successfully participate.
- Some students with cerebral palsy are able to understand what is expected of them at school, and can then manage their own behaviour.
- When given time and opportunities to practice, students with cerebral palsy can develop strong friendships and social skills.
Where might you provide support?
- Students with cerebral palsy will differ in how much their movement is impacted. Some students will walk independently, while others will use mobility aids (e.g. a walking frame or a wheelchair). Some students may also have trouble controlling their muscle movements, which can impact their coordination and motor tasks such as writing.
- If muscles in the face, mouth, and throat are impacted by cerebral palsy, students can experience challenges with talking, eating and drinking. They may find speech challenging, which means they might have different ways of communicating (e.g. using computer technology, pictures or gestures with their hands or head), or they might need more time to communicate.
- Students with cerebral palsy may experience chronic or recurring pain. This may affect their behaviour. They may become less motivated to join in or interact with others.
- Students with cerebral palsy may also have difficulties with social interaction and peer relationships.
Consider adjustments to teaching style
Adjust activities and equipment
Best practice tips
Adjust the rules
Make eye contact at the student’s level
Consider seating position and duration
Create plenty of space for movement
Other co-occurring conditions
Visit our resources page for a range of resources that can help to create inclusive education environments for children with disabilities and developmental challenges. Some particularly relevant resources for children with cerebral palsy include: