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General Guidelines for Helping A Child’s Development

A child with Cerebral Palsy needs your help and guidance more than a normal child does. The following guidelines are applicable when you are caring for a normal baby. If the infant is spastic, these guidelines become imperative.

  1. Praise the child a lot.

    Praise him, hug him lovingly, or give him a little prize when he does something well (or when he makes a good effort).
    Praising success works better (and is much kinder) than scolding or punishing failure. When the child tries to do something and fails, it is best to ignore it or simply say something like - “Let us do it again”.

  2. Talk a lot to the child

    Using clear, simple words, say everything that you do with him.
    A child listens to and begins to learn language long before he begins to speak. Although it may seem as though he does not understand or respond, still talk to him a lot. If you think he does not hear, talk to him but also use the ‘sign language’. Make sure he looks at you when you speak.

  3. When you are helping a child learn a new skill, guide her movements with your hands.
    For example, to teach a child to bring her hands to her mouth (or to eat by herself) you can

    • Help her put her hand in a food she enjoys

    • Then guide her hand to put her finger in her mouth

    • After the child has learnt to do this let her do it by herself


    It usually works better to gently guide the child than to tell her how to do something, If she tries to do something but has difficulty, guiding her hands so that she is successful will make her a lot more eager to learn the skill than if you say, “NO-do it like this!”

  4. Use a mirror

    To help the child learn about his body to use his hands and for activities such as brushing the teeth, combing, buttoning etc.
    The mirror helps the child see and recognise parts of his body. It is especially useful for children who have difficulty relating to different parts of their body or knowing where they are. (This can happen in some forms of mental retardation, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, and spina bifida.)

  5. Use imitation (copying)

    To teach a new action or skill, do something first and encourage the child to copy you. Turn it into a game. Involve siblings or other children in the game. They will be good models to follow.
    Many mentally handicapped children (especially those with Down’s Syndrome) love to copy or imitate the actions of others. This is good way to teach many things, from physical activities to sounds and words.

  6. Encourage the child to reach out or go for what he wants.

    Allow the child to make efforts to ask for things.
    When it gets too easy, put obstacles in the way-but do not make them too difficult.
    Even at early stages of development, it is a mistake to always place in his hands what a child wants. Instead, use the child’s desire as a chance to have him use his developing body skills and language skills to get what he wants - by reaching, twisting, rising, creeping, or whatever he is learning to do.

  7. Make learning fun.

    Always look for ways to turn learning activities into play.
    Children learn best and co- operate more when they enjoy and are excited by what they are doing. Keep doing an activity as long as it is fun for the child. As soon as it stops being fun, stop the activity for a while, or change it in some way, to put new adventure and excitement into it. Sometimes children persist on playing with certain things or toys for a long time or always. They refuse to play with other things. Encourage them to play with variety of material.

  8. Let the child do as much as she can for herself. Help her only as much as is needed.

    For example, if child has trouble putting on clothes because of spasiticity, help by bending her shoulders and back forward, but let her pull on her clothes herself.
    This is the “Golden Rule of Rehabilitation.” When a child has trouble doing something or seems slow or clumsy at it, parents often want to ‘help’ by doing it for her. However, for the child’s development, it will help her more to let her do it herself, at her own pace providing encouragement but assisting only in ways that let her do more for herself.

  9. The child often learns best when no teacher is present.

    Children often try hardest when they want something a lot, and no one is there to help. Teaching is important, but so is giving the child a chance to explore, test his own limits, and do things for and by himself.

  10. Get older brothers and sisters to demonstrate new equipment.

    Some children may refuse to try, or may be afraid of new playthings, aids, or special seating. If another child tries it first, and shows he likes it, the child will often want to try it also.

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