Coping With Cerebral Palsy

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Adapting to life with cerebral palsy and learning how to effectively cope with the condition is the leading factor that determines the quality of life of a person with cerebral palsy, as well as the rest of their family.

The abilities of people who are living with cerebral palsy vary tremendously. If you have cerebral palsy, you might have to use a wheelchair and may be unable to eat without assistance. You may be an athlete who uses a brace intermittently, or you may have abilities that lie anywhere in between these two extremes. Coping with your condition requires a variety of strategies that have been shown to be effective in living with cerebral palsy.

When cerebral palsy causes profound disability, the dedication of the family and the support of professional caregivers is necessary.

If your cerebral palsy is mild, it is generally one's own coping skills, rather than the coping skills of caregivers, that determines overall ability to adjust to and maximize personal abilities and satisfaction with life as a whole.

Cerebral Palsy Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for an upcoming healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Mom and Baby


The emotional impact of a cerebral palsy diagnosis occurs very early. Parents or guardians are generally more profoundly impacted by the diagnosis than the child, due to the young age of symptom onset. 


Depending on the extent of the disability, there are almost always inherent limitations in what a person with cerebral palsy can achieve. Acceptance of this fact is necessary in most circumstances.

Positive Attitude 

A positive attitude is completely compatible with acceptance. Most people who are living with cerebral palsy and their families have an overall positive outlook and do not dwell on negative thinking. 

Setting Goals 

In some situations, a person with cerebral palsy is able to overcome obstacles and achieve physical, cognitive, or other skills. For all people with cerebral palsy, tangible and realistic goals can provide motivation and can also deliver the satisfaction of a job well done. 

Spiritual Participation

A person with cerebral palsy has the ability to express an opinion about participation in spiritual activity and exposure to faith-based activities and can benefit when these wishes are facilitated.


Some people with cerebral palsy have a learning disability, and if you or the child in your care has a learning disability, there remains potential to learn at one's own pace.


Education is an empowering tool for anyone, including people who are living with cerebral palsy. Education makes it possible to enjoy the benefits of better employment opportunities, to learn about how to manage money and to read for general knowledge and enjoyment. It is if important to remember to seek out fitting educational resources.

The impairments associated with cerebral palsy may lead to specific behavior problems.
FatCamera / E+ / Getty Images


If you or the child in your care has cerebral palsy, safely getting around the home environment and outside destinations may be a challenge. One might need a wheelchair, a walker, or a brace to be able to get from place to place.

In addition to the professionally recommended devices for assistance with ambulation, family strategies are the key components of ensuring safety while maximizing freedom to get around the house and the outside world.

Family and caregivers may need to tailor the right routine for someone living with cerebral palsy.


Athletic activities for people living with cerebral palsy are offered in most communities. These activities can provide a variety of ways to learn sports for personal achievement. Seek out ways to join competitions. 

Mobility Devices 

Wheelchairs and walkers can usually be personalized to provide the right amount of support without unnecessary confining someone or underutilizing their physical capabilities. 

Home Environment 

A home can be adapted with ramps, rails, padding and other structural components to facilitate getting around the house as independently as possible.


Cars can be adapted to be more accessible, making it easier to enjoy life outside the house. 


Familiarizing oneself with nearby public spaces that are accessible such as restaurants, museums and parks can allow people living with cerebral palsy to participate in community and take advantage of neighborhood surroundings.


Social interactions and communities can be beneficial in many ways for people who have cerebral palsy and for their families. 


Attending school provides daily structure, education, socializing with peers and a sense of confidence and belonging for those living with cerebral palsy. Schools are constantly improving their services for students with disabilities and learning to personalize instruction while giving students a chance to remain part of the group.

Often, parents and guardians need to communicate specific needs in advance so the school can design a beneficial plan for the student.

Summer Camps

Camps designed to accommodate children and adults with disabilities can provide a safe and fun opportunity to socialize, enjoy outdoor activities such as swimming and build skills in sports and recreation. 

Family Gatherings

Extended family gatherings may provide the best opportunity for people living with cerebral palsy to bond with a loving network. Extended family can also help increase the level of supportive care a person who has cerebral palsy receives.

Community Events 

Neighborhood or faith-based communities can be a comforting place for a person living with cerebral palsy. Feeling accepted as part of an extended community can give a person living with cerebral palsy a change of scenery that is also familiar. 


Teenagers and adults living with cerebral palsy may be able to work in an employed position. County and state resources can provide direction in finding employers that accommodate and support employees with disabilities. Working in this capacity provides confidence, camaraderie and builds skills and independence.


A number of special strategies may help optimize life and the life of one's family.


Computer-assisted communication and control of mobility devices can provide an additional level of independence for people who have cerebral palsy. Online activities can provide the opportunity for safe interaction with others in the forms of messaging, games, and tutoring. 


Exposure to a different environment and taking time off from the regular routine helps all people, including individuals living with cerebral palsy and their caregivers. Many destinations are accessible, and support groups can often offer guidance and recommendations for places that accommodate one's abilities. 

Asking For Help 

If someone has mild cerebral palsy, it is valuable to ask for help from friends and family or from professionals when one needs it. And if someone is a caregiver of a person who is living with profound circumstances of cerebral palsy, asking for assistance can also result in more time to recharge so that loving care can continue. 

Residential Living

Some caregivers of people who have cerebral palsy experience profound stress because the world makes little accommodations for people with disabilities and their caregivers. This can lead to personal health problems and resentment. It is not uncommon for families to seek a residential facility for a person who has cerebral palsy. Professionals who are familiar with the condition can provide round the clock care, while family members can visit often. 


Trusting others can be a huge issue when it comes to cerebral palsy. When a physical or cognitive ability is impaired it can be hard to know who to trust.

There are strategies that can ease peace of mind while helping one avoid those who might want to take advantage of people who have physical or cognitive disabilities. These strategies can include using cameras to monitor caregivers, creating systems in which financial activity is double checked by multiple people, and working to nurture a network of genuine, trusted friends who agree to look out for a loved one who is living with physical or cognitive disability caused by cerebral palsy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you help a child with cerebral palsy in school?

    Start by working with a school counselor to determine if the child can be mainstreamed with non-disabled peers or if part-time or full-time special education classes are needed. Older students can be given an independent education program (IEP) evaluation to determine what their needs are and how to help them succeed in school.

  • How you help non-verbal children with cerebral palsy?

    For children with severe dysarthria (difficulty controlling muscles needed to speak), assistive tools and devices can help, including:

    • Communication boards
    • Flashcards, pictures, and symbols
    • Sign language
    • Body or eye gestures
    • Button communication devices
    • Voice synthesizers
  • Can you help a child with cerebral palsy with writing control?

    Larger, weighted writing instruments can help ensure a firmer grip and steadier control. Hand-over-hand writing—in which an adult places their hand over a child’s while writing—can teach a child how to write letters and numbers in a series of planned steps. Tracing over dotted lines and stabilizing the child's seated posture can also help.

  • How does occupational therapy help someone with cerebral palsy?

    Occupational therapy helps by providing them with the tools and strategies to manage their daily lives. Not only does this boost self-esteem, but it also increases a person’s chance of independence. This may involve assistive devices and strategies to help with eating, dressing, bathing, or overcoming common difficulties with posture and unsteadiness.

  • What devices can help someone with cerebral palsy walk again?

    It depends on the type and severity of cerebral palsy a person has. Assistive devices can range from orthotic braces to support and stabilize the foot, ankle, knee, and/or hip to walking sticks, canes, crutches, and walkers. People with severe cerebral palsy (particularly hypotonic cerebral palsy characterized by muscle "floppiness") may ultimately need a wheelchair.

  • Can a ketogenic diet help people with cerebral palsy?

    Possibly. The ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920s to help control seizures in children with drug-resistant epilepsy. However, the diet requires strict adherence, and there is a lack of research specifically dedicated to its use in people with cerebral palsy. Speak with your healthcare provider before embarking on any restricted diet, particularly in growing children.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Cerebral Palsy?

  2. Whittingham K, Sanders MR, McKinlay L, Boyd RN. Parenting Intervention Combined With Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: A Trial With Families of Children With Cerebral PalsyJ Pediatr Psychol. 2016;41(5):531-542. doi:10.1093/jpepsy/jsv118

  3. Sedaghati Barog Z, Younesi SJ, Sedaghati AH, Sedaghati Z. Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Quality of Life of Mothers of Children with Cerebral PalsyIran J Psychiatry. 10(2):86-92.

  4. Asbell S, Donders J, Van Tubbergen M, Warschausky S. Predictors of reading comprehension in children with cerebral palsy and typically developing childrenChild Neuropsychol. 2010;16(4):313-325. doi:10.1080/09297041003733588

  5. Ekiz T, Özbudak Demir S, Sümer HG, Özgirgin N. Wheelchair appropriateness in children with cerebral palsy: A single center experience. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2017;30(4):825-828. doi:10.3233/BMR-150522

  6. Rodby-Bousquet E, Hägglund G. Use of manual and powered wheelchair in children with cerebral palsy: a cross-sectional studyBMC Pediatr. 2010;10:59. doi:10.1186/1471-2431-10-59

  7. Benitez Ojeda AB, Carugno P. Special education. In: StatPearls [Internet].

  8. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK). 15. Improving speech, language and communication: speech intelligibility. In: Cerebral Palsy in Under 25s: Assessment and Management.

  9. Arnould C, Bleyenheuft Y, Thonnard J-L. Hand functioning in children with cerebral palsy. Front Neurol. 2014;5. doi:10.3389/fneur.2014.00048

  10. Palisano RJ, Begnoche DM, Chiarello LA, Bartlett DJ, McCoy SW, Chang H-J. Amount and focus of physical therapy and occupational therapy for young children with cerebral palsy. Phys Occup Ther Pediatric. 2012;32(4):368-82. doi:10.3109/01942638.2012.715620

  11. Begnoche DM, Chiarello LA, Palisano RJ, Gracely EJ, McCoy SW, Orlin MN. Predictors of independent walking in young children with cerebral palsy. Phys Ther. 2016;96(2):183-92 doi:10.2522/ptj.20140315

  12. D’Andrea Meira I, Romão TT, Pires do Prado HJ, Krüger LT, Pires MEP, da Conceição PO. Ketogenic diet and epilepsy: what we know so far. Front Neurosci. 2019;13:5. doi:10.3389/fnins.2019.00005

By Heidi Moawad, MD
Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and expert in the field of brain health and neurological disorders. Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.