No one said life is easy, but for children with cerebral palsy, the struggle is harder than it is for most. With so many challenges to face every day, these children have so much to overcome just to be able to eat and do every day tasks. Anything that parents can do to make the every day routines easier and allow more time for play and fun can contribute to their child’s quality of life.
One of our basics needs and often pleasures is eating. Unfortunately, for children with cerebral palsy mealtime may not be pleasant at all.
• Independent feeding. If at possible, children with cerebral palsy should be allowed to feed themselves. It may take longer and be messier, but it is part of being independent and learning to enjoy their meals.
• Soft foods. If the child has trouble chewing or swallowing, try to keep foods soft and in small bites so it is easier for them to eat.
• Special utensils. Plastic silverware can reduce the chance of hurting the child’s mouth if they have a bite reflex. There are also specially made plates, bowls and mats that can help keep everything in place and from moving around that can be helpful.
Keeping a child with cerebral palsy clean and hygienic is very important but it can be time-consuming and difficult on both the parents and the child. The process of trying to clean them yet keep them comfortable and relaxed can be daunting. Using some techniques and tools can make bath time go quicker and be more enjoyable for everyone.
• Positioning. It is important to make sure that the child is in a position that normalizes his or her muscles as much as possible. The position they are seated in needs to be comfortable and secure for them to relax and not feel stressed.
• Seating devices. There are bath seats that can work well for bathing. Depending on the size, age and capabilities of the child, a regular bath or shower seat may work. Otherwise, there are semi-reclining seats that use suction cups to stabilize them on the bottom of the tub.
• Bath fun. Find fun ways to make bath time interactive and fun instead of a chore. Water toys can distract and entertain the child if being washed is stressful. However, bath time is also a great way to interact with your child and work on motor skills and different movements.
Getting a child to go to sleep is a challenge for all parents, not just those with children with cerebral palsy. However, there are special issues that can make bedtime more difficult. Finding ways to calm and get the child ready for a good nights sleep will make sure the parents and the child get the rest they need.
• Calm activities. Playtime needs to be scaled back to a calmer tone an hour or so before bedtime. A quiet game or reading a book gets the child ready to relax and go to sleep.
• Comfortable position. If the child has difficulties turning or adjusting themselves, make sure they are in a position that is comfortable. If they have spasms, choose a position that will reduce the risk of spasms during the night.
• Monitor. Some children may fear being alone. Use a baby monitor as a comforting device. Knowing you can hear them can make them feel safe.
By making daily routines easier and less stressful, the rest of the day can be more productive and fulfilling for a child with cerebral palsy. Parents can use these techniques and tailor them to their child’s special circumstances to make each day a little better.
– Jonathan Rosenfeld is an attorney and sponsor of Cerebral Palsy FAQ, a site dedicated to providing families with medical-legal information regarding CP and other birth injuries.