Every teacher knows that before they can help their students learn, the teacher needs to do homework too, so when a child with cerebral palsy arrives in a teacher’s preschool class, it’s wise to not only do homework, but research too.
What exactly is Cerebral Palsy?
Most of us have a vague idea of what cerebral palsy is, but there are some aspects of the neurological damage that are sometimes misunderstood.
It can be due to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood. Whatever caused the brain damage is permanent, and will most likely affect gross motor movement and coordination. Since the damage doesn’t worsen over time, there are ways to assist the child to adapt and modify.
The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, but it might not become apparent until the child becomes preschool age. The result of cerebral palsy is, “ataxia,” which is the lack of muscle coordination while trying to move for voluntary actions. The child might have exaggerated reflexes, called, “spasicity.”
If the child is able to walk, the cerebral palsy will make walking difficult, with one foot or leg dragging, walking on the toes, have a crouched gait, or a “scissored” type of gai. Their muscle tone will be either stiff or too soft.
Brain infections can cause cerebral palsy, or damage due to the process of birth. Accidents can also produce the brain damage of cerebral palsy symptoms. It’s wise to keep in mind that although a child with cerebral palsy will most likely have poor speech, their intellectually ability can and most often is within the average to above average range.
MAINSTREAMED CHILDREN WITH CEREBRAL PALSY:
There is no reason why a child with cerebral palsy can’t succeed with receiving instruction within a, “regular,” preschool, but the issues cerebral palsy brings in with him will create the need for assistance from an extra set of adult size hands.
You mist have a trained assistant in helping the child get around the room and school building too. This assistant will help you feed the child at meal times, as the child will most likely have difficulty grasping even a spoon. He’ll need assistance with his toiletry needs as well, and since you can’t be in the bathroom with him and watch the class at the same time, you’ll need help. Still these things can be mastered in time, with patience, practice and extra hands.
Completing Assigned tasks:
You’ll need to modify the activities that a child with cerebral palsy can’t do. Most will have an occupational therapist, speech therapist and a physical therapist as well who can help you find ways to teach him in modified ways.
Since a child with cerebral palsy is as unique as any child is, take a look at severity of that particular child’s cerebral palsy to see what his strengths and weaknesses are.
LANGUAGE AND ARTICULATION:
Before you even try to modify, ask the speech therapist to show you what she does with the child to foster communication skills that help him with your language lessons.
Communication boards are powerful ways that people with cerebral palsy learn to communicate. Have the preschool child with cerebral palsy identify objects and pictures from a group, by gazing at the specified object or picture. From here, he can learn to create short sentences by making a board for him with common pictured objects. Certain symbols can be used for words like, “more, I want, no or yes.” Once again, the school’s speech therapist should assist you with this.
If you re including him with the other children during your lessons, the cerebral palsy child will learn from your lessons too. Try to use a lot of visual cues and auditory cues too, which are great ways to teach any child, after all.
MOTOR SKILL ACTIVITIES:
The child with cerebral palsy should be allowed to participate in motor activities to the best of his ability. When you take the children outside to play, have an adult there who can lift, carry or assist the child onto and off of playground equipment. Of course, it’s wise to be provided with the professional wisdom of a physical therapist to help you know how to do this properly.
Any activity designed to assist toddlers to manipulate objects will be a good activity for a child with cerebral palsy. The more they work and move the weak muscles, the stronger than can become.
Hold a meeting with the occupational and physical therapist so that they can give you a basic corse in how to help the child with motor development.
SOCIAL SKILLS AND PEERS:
Because the child with cerebral palsy is obviously handicapped in a physical way, they are often mistaken for being mentally challenged, which is most often not the case. It’s a good idea to let the other children know that the child simply can’t talk, but he understand everything they say. Encourage them to interact with the child who has cerebral palsy, and then, encourage the child with cerebral palsy to communicate back to them in any way he can.
Eventually the other children will see that looks can be deceiving and they will begin to make friends and forget all about the wheel chair or walker.
It can’t be overstated, that it’s vital for you to seek an education about how to supervise a child with cerebral palsy. Take the time to learn how to operate his wheel chair, or the proper way to use the walker. Show the other children how these things work for him too, and teach them to respect that these things belong to him. “Don’t touch things that don’t belong to you,” is the best way to say it to three and four year olds.
It’S been my experience that to throw a child with cerebral palsy into a regular classroom, with out the guidance of those who know the best way to do it, will be a mistake for you, the child and his peers. Make sure you insist on being educated first, before it’s attempted.
Hopefully this will be the case, and in that case, everyone in your preschool class will benefit from seeing with their own eyes how much a disabled person can do and accomplish too.