The Mighty Logo

6 Things I Wish Medical Professionals Understood About Cerebral Palsy

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

During my life, I have had to see numerous medical personnel due to being sick or for check-ups. Unfortunately, doctors and nurses often do not understand how to properly communicate and care for someone with cerebral palsy. In an emergency situation, not knowing what to do can quickly turn into a life-or-death situation.

Here are some suggestions that I believe will help if you’re giving someone with cerebral palsy a check-up, mammogram or any medical attention.

1. Don’t assume you know everything. You don’t know if the person has an intellectual challenge or a genius IQ. Don’t talk to them like they are a child, or talk loudly as if they were deaf. They deserve the same respect as anyone else you help.

2. Talk to them. A person with cerebral palsy might have a personal care attendant, friend or family member with them, but you should direct questions or directions to the person you’re caring for. It’s very impolite to go in and talk to everyone else but the patient.

3. Understand that not all people who have cerebral palsy are the same. How cerebral palsy affects someone varies from person to person. Some people might be stiff, while others might have involuntary movements. Some can walk and some can’t. Ask them how cerebral palsy affects them, rather than guessing or making assumptions.

4. Please don’t say “sit still” to someone who has cerebral palsy. For someone with involuntary movements or muscle spasms, sitting still can be extremely difficult and not a choice. The more you ask someone to sit still, the more the body reacts by moving. Instead, explain what you need to do and try to work together to make it work. Ask if they have ideas on positioning to help make it more comfortable.

5. Listen to the patient, even if they have a speech impediment.  Many people who have cerebral palsy have difficulty speaking. It doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re saying, or can’t comprehend your words. It means you need to listen and be patient so you understand what they need, think and feel.

6. People with cerebral palsy can have children, work, marriages, and live full lives. Cerebral palsy doesn’t affect childbirth or the reproductive system. People with cerebral palsy are just people with a body that responds differently in motion. Plain and simple.

Originally published: August 1, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home