Children with cerebral palsy may feel isolated around peers.
Cerebral palsy is a chronic condition caused by brain damage that usually occurs before or during birth. In rare cases, the disorder develops due to brain damage that occurs during infancy. Cerebral palsy primarily affects a person's ability to move. Although cerebral palsy does not directly cause behavior problems, they can occur with the condition.
Cerebral palsy primarily affects body movement. Symptoms of this disorder do not worsen over time; rather they affect the individual throughout life. Other disorders can exist with cerebral palsy, including decreased vision, hearing loss, communication difficulties and learning disabilities. Negative behaviors also occur more frequently -- particularly during childhood -- in people with cerebral palsy when compared with healthy peers. The exact cause of these behaviors is not known.
Environmental factors may contribute to negative behaviors in children with cerebral palsy. According to a study published in 2009 by "Child: Care, Health and Development," family support and stress factors were directly related to behavior problems in children with cerebral palsy over a 3-year period. In addition, negative behaviors increased with the severity of symptoms from cerebral palsy. Children who were less mobile had more negative behaviors. Parents in this study also reported that behaviors improved as the children got older. Behavior problems with cerebral palsy may also be influenced by interactions with peers at school. Children with cerebral palsy are sometimes clumsy and often need assistance with eating and personal hygiene, and this can make them uncomfortable around their peers.
Negative behaviors in children with cerebral palsy may be influenced by communication disabilities. Children who cannot speak often have difficulty expressing frustration or letting someone know they are in pain. This can be manifested by "bad" behavior. Hearing loss and learning disabilities occurring with cerebral palsy also affect the ability to orally express feelings and frustrations.
Different interventions are available to address behavior problems that sometimes accompany cerebral palsy. Communication aids are frequently used to assist with decision making and expression of emotions and needs. Picture cards can be used to allow a person to make choices about food, clothing and activities. Pictures of various facial expressions can be used to communicate pain or frustration if speaking skills are limited. Computerized communication devices can be programmed with phrases that are spoken aloud with the push of a button to give otherwise nonverbal children a "voice." Interventions addressing family support and stress can improve behavior issues associated with cerebral palsy. Financial assistance, psychological services and community support groups can reduce overall stress in the environment, having a positive influence on behavior.