Cerebral palsy, which is sometimes the result of a birth injury, is the most commonly occurring motor disability disorder of childhood in the United States. However, if parents of two children with cerebral palsy were to compare notes, they might find that although their children have received the same broad diagnosis, they face unique challenges in their day-to-day lives. One child may struggle with communication while another may find tasks that involve muscle strength especially difficult.
It takes a multipronged approach to help children with special needs succeed in school and at home. Products that are classified as assistive technology play a vital role in the lives of kids with cerebral palsy, helping them improve or maintain their functional abilities. This, in turn, leads to improved confidence and independence. Here’s a list of adaptive gear that children with cerebral palsy might benefit from:
Outdoor Fun – Tricycles
Cycling is therapeutic for children with CP. It helps a number of functions including balance, hand-eye coordination, posture, head control, and muscle strength. There are a number of adaptive bikes for kids with CP on the market. Some children may do better with trikes and tandem bikes. Children as young as 2 years old can ride bikes. Riding a bike can provide an instant boost to a child’s self-esteem. And of course, it’s so much fun! Bikes for kids with special needs can cost anything from $100 to $6,000.
Indoor Fun – Art Supplies
Art is a way for all kids to express themselves. For children with cerebral palsy, art is a safe way to learn new skills and gain confidence while having a good time. Parents may need to use some adaptive art supplies for kids with special needs. For instance, a child with stiff muscles and jerky movements (spastic CP) may find it easier to work with large crayons or paintbrushes. Velcro wrist straps around markers may work for some kids. Parents should ensure the child works in a comfortable position with a stable, adjustable table and chair. And remember, there’s no right or wrong art. Kids with special needs should be allowed to take their time doing whatever project gives them a feeling of accomplishment.
The layout and design of the bathroom at home can make bath time safe for kids with special needs. Each child with cerebral palsy has specific limitations which determine the adaptive gear that is needed. Here are some examples of adaptive gear that can make access easier and the bathroom more child-friendly:
- Grab bars
- Bath and shower chairs
- Non-slip mats
- Locked medicine cabinets
- Push-and-pull water taps
- Low-level sinks
- Walk-in baths
- Adaptive commodes
Mealtimes can be messy when a child has stiffness and poor muscle control. There are a number of eating and drinking aids that can make things easier. A bowl with a suction base keeps the utensil in place and avoids spilling accidents. Velcro utensil holders are adaptable to the child’s size, and in addition to spoons and forks, can be used to hold other small items such as a toothbrush or a paint brush. Foam tubing for utensils builds up the handle for a steady grip and increased softness.
There is no doubt that adaptive equipment can make life easier for children with CP. Adaptive products not only foster independence but also ensure safety. This allows children with special needs to participate in a variety of activities, making them healthier and happier. The ultimate goal, after all, is the integration of children with cerebral palsy into school and social life so they can lead productive, happy lives as adults.