How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect Social Development?

by John McKiggan

The creation and building social relationships is one of many milestones that children affected by cerebral palsy may have difficulty in achieving. But how exactly does cerebral palsy affect social development, especially as children are learning how to walk, talk and interact with others?

Whether it is due to mobility, difficulties in communicating needs or a lack of confidence, BILA’s commitment to representing children and families affected by cerebral palsy has given us a particular insight on social development, and how families can overcome any obstruction that may impair their child’s ability to connect with others.

Benefits of Socialization

Socialization in children affected by cerebral palsy has been observed to have life-altering positive benefits. For example, children who develop social skills have the valuable opportunity to learn from one another and form interpersonal relationships that can last for years. Because children affected by cerebral palsy may be excluded by their peers unfairly, fostering positive social behaviors can help your child navigate life without the debilitating weight of loneliness.

Some social issues faced by children with cerebral palsy can include:

  • Poor control of the tongue and/or mouth muscles that affect speech;
  • Difficulty in being understood by others, or effectively communicating thoughts;
  • Hearing loss and/or vision problems;
  • Delays in emotional and physical development;
  • Attention and behavioral deficiencies; and
  • Exclusion from social activities or being separated from others.

With positive social development, children and families affected by cerebral palsy can drastically reduce the tendency for others to exclude them and can even help others see cerebral palsy not as a detriment, but as simply a period of development to be navigated through.

Exposing your child—and other children—to differences in communication style and social development styles has been proven to help break down pre-conceived notions of children affected by birth injuries, and can help your child reach their maximum potential in any social situation.

Fostering Social Growth in your Child

If your child is affected by cerebral palsy, or knows of another child in their age group affected by cerebral palsy, it is important to encourage communication and patience as they learn how to interact with others. Young children are particularly receptive to how their parents react to certain social cues, and will often emulate their parents’ behavior if encountered with a similar situation.

By practicing patience, understanding and honest communication, you can help your child reach critical social development milestones—no matter how long that it takes.

There are many ways to help children affected by cerebral palsy develop positive social skills, but these five in particular can help to keep your child involved in your community—without fear of exclusion or ridicule from their peers:

  • Consider developing your child’s interests—such as sports, travel, art, music or camps—and involving them in activities that best reflect these interests;
  • Practice patience. By taking the time to understand your child, and communicate using methods they find most comfortable—such as communication boards or hand gestures—you can help them fill in the gaps they may encounter in speech;
  • Use apps to help your child develop communication and language comprehension skills;
  • Enroll your child in social therapy, which can help children break down communication barriers through group and individual activities; and
  • Involve your child in recreational therapy, which can allow your child to increase their confidence and acceptance of their condition through social activities.

Contact an Experience Cerebral Palsy Lawyer

Whether your child has been socializing with others for some time, or is only recently beginning to communicate, encouraging positive social development can yield life-changing results in a short matter of time. Despite this, cerebral palsy can often lead to children having less-than-desirable interactions with others—and in some cases, this can result in unfair discrimination from peers, potential employers, doctors and even members of their own family.

If you or a loved one is affected by cerebral palsy and has been unfairly discriminated against, or believes that a doctor or medical practitioner has exacerbated their condition, you may be entitled to legal compensation. For more information on cerebral palsy and questions regarding potential legal action, contact BILA today to discuss your case with a member familiar with your province’s laws.

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