Traditional vs. Special Education for Children with Cerebral Palsy
By John Lehman
Every parent wants their child to have a well-rounded education, and parents of children with cerebral palsy are no different. However, it can be difficult deciding what educational environment will best suit the needs of a child with CP. Some parents find that a special education program, with specially trained instructors, is the best environment for their child. Other children with cerebral palsy benefit more from attending a mainstream school. Of course, every child with cerebral palsy is different, and each option has its advantages and disadvantages.
This type of school is best suited for children whose cerebral palsy is considered mild, and works best earlier in the child’s education rather than later. Some parents feel that a child with cerebral palsy learns social skills and grows emotionally in a mainstream educational environment. By interacting with non-disabled children, proponents of this option suggest that children with cerebral palsy will learn routine, everyday practices faster. Including children with cerebral palsy in a mainstream school can also be beneficial for non-disabled children, who can learn to develop empathy towards those who are different from them.
Usually, parents and teachers will develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to ensure that a child’s needs are attended to. During your child’s schooling years, they may receive physical therapy, speech therapy and special considerations during certain classes. For example, physical educational requirements will likely be different for your child than other children, depending on the severity of their cerebral palsy. These specialized programs can also be beneficial if your child has developed learning disabilities as a result of cerebral palsy.
This kind of educational environment is great for children whose cerebral palsy is severe. Unlike mainstream school, a special education system will often have instructors specifically trained to teach a variety of children with disabilities, including those with cerebral palsy. In a special school program, the school’s curriculum is tailored directly to each child’s needs, eliminating the worry that a mainstream school might move too fast for your child.
That is not to say that a child with severe cerebral palsy cannot utilize classes offered by a mainstream program. In fact, many disabled children in a special education program will take art or musical classes at a mainstream school while receiving math, writing and other common classes at their special school program. Depending on the severity of their condition, some children may receive special education for only specific subjects and use a mainstream school for the majority of their education.
When deciding which educational environment is appropriate for your child, it is important to know that you are not alone. Your child’s teachers, doctors and therapists are all available to assist you and your child as best they can. By working together, you can ensure that your child receives the educational support they need.
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