When a parent learns his or her child has Cerebral Palsy, they begin to define and understand the condition. Questions arise. Words such as disability, impairment, special needs, and handicap are helpful when used correctly. However, the same words – when misunderstood and misused – can be hurtful, offensive and harmful.
Is Cerebral Palsy an impairment?
Yes. Impairment is the loss or limitation of function. Impairment is a condition that limits a person to some degree.
Individuals diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy have a neurological condition which primarily causes physical impairment involving limitation or loss of function and mobility. They experience difficulty with muscle coordination, muscle control, muscle tone, reflexes, balance or posture. They may have difficulty with fine or gross motor skills. Their facial muscles may be affected.
Individuals with Cerebral Palsy often have associative and co-mitigating conditions that also impose additional challenges, such as a learning impairment, seizures, and vision or hearing loss.
A person can have impairment without having a disability.
Is Cerebral Palsy a disability?
Sometimes. A disability is an impairment that substantially limits a person’s ability to perform life activities within a range comparable to someone the same age and circumstance. A disability may include impairments that limit mobility, hearing, sight, and communication.
The term “disability” is primarily used to qualify a person fairly for government benefits, access to healthcare, special education programs, workers compensation, workplace accommodations, travel accommodations, or health insurance.
All individuals with disability have impairment. However, a person can have impairment without disability. In other words, their impairment does not restrict them from performing a life activity. For example, a person who wears glasses or contact lenses to correct nearsightedness has impairment, but does not have a disability; the impairment — nearsightedness — is correctable and therefore does not restrict performance. However, a person declared legally blind is unable to perform certain functions, such as driving, and hence is said to have a disability that restricts performance.
Is Cerebral Palsy a disease?
No. Cerebral Palsy is not a disease – it is actually a term used to describe a range of conditions that typically cause physical impairment.
Is Cerebral Palsy a handicap?
A handicap is a situational barrier or obstacle that limits activity or restricts participation, often temporarily. The World Health Organization defines two types of handicaps:
Activity limitations are difficulties an individual may have in executing a task or action.
Participation restrictions are problems an individual may have in involvement in life situations.
A handicap is apparent only when the barrier or obstacle exists. For a person who uses a wheelchair for mobility, stairs and narrow hallways may present a handicap. Ramps, elevators, and alternate hallways remove the handicap.
Today, much is being done to remove barriers and obstacles for individuals with impairment. WHO and U.S. government agencies guided by the Americans with Disabilities Act, collaborate with employers, retailers, transportation sources and private groups on a mission to identify obstacles and barriers. They also work to reduce or eliminate handicaps. These organizations promote inclusion, accessibility, and accommodation standards.
Do individuals with Cerebral Palsy have special needs?
Individuals with conditions that may require additional supports, help, or technology are generally considered to have special needs. The term “special needs” generally refers to the need to assist, support, adapt, modify or accommodate a person in order to provide barrier-free, equal access to experiences, events, buildings, information, participation and inclusion that is afforded a person without disability or impairment. Accessibility and inclusion are rights afforded to everyone – with or without disability – to participate in activities of daily living, education, transportation, employment, travel, public spaces, and housing, to name a few.