Cerebral Palsy is an inherent disorder that affects a person’s movement, posture, and muscle tone. The symptoms will start to display in early childhood and range from involuntary, exaggerated movements of the arms and legs to completely limp or rigid limbs. It’s common for people who are ignorant about this disease to confuse it with other neurological disorders. Cerebral palsy results from a combination of events either before, during, or after birth that causes an injury in a baby’s developing brain. There is no cure, only long-term treatment options such as medicine, surgery, and physical therapy. Many research organizations exist to attempt to discover what exactly causes this severe illness.
Even without a medical degree, there are still many other ways to support a friend or loved one with this disease. The first necessary hurdle is seeing past the appearance of someone different. The misconception that you should either ignore them or pretend they aren’t different is untrue. They are aware they are unique and would gladly welcome a greeting from a new friend. Don’t be afraid to reach out and shake their hand. In addition to greeting them, ask them any questions directly. They will welcome a chance to talk to you. Even if you just want to make small talk, engage them directly instead of talking around them like they are not there. When speaking, use your words exactly as you would with a regular adult. Adults with Cerebral Palsy are not children.
Sometimes people are insensitive without even meaning to be. A person’s wheelchair is an extension of themselves and something upon which they rely heavily. For this reason, avoid leaning on it or touching it without permission. This includes pushing someone around uninvited.
Another way to show respect is by actively listening to what they have to say. This includes making eye contact, avoiding all electronic devices, and nodding your head in agreement. By doing so, you show them that their words are valuable and are worth just as much as every other person’s.
People who have Cerebral Palsy are not defined by it. They are humans who suffer from it, but they are not the disease. They are also likely to have a distinct sense of humor after hearing nearly every idiom there is. If you catch yourself saying something that might seem inappropriate, they will be very accepting of your good intentions.