Misconceptions about cerebral palsy

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Complex health conditions such as cerebral palsy (CP) are widely misunderstood.  

Across the globe, almost 17 million people and 34,000 people here in Australia have CP.

Despite being one of the most common childhood congenital disorders in the world myths and misinformation persist.  

Here at EPIC Assist (EPIC), we help people overcome any potential barriers a person might face in the workforce. Part of that assistance is advocating for people with disability and helping the general public to become more informed and aware. Today we are here to break down some of the biggest myths and misconceptions about cerebral palsy.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles.

Cerebral palsy myths, BUSTED

MYTH: People with cerebral palsy can’t work

FALSE. Many adults obtain gainful employment. You can have CP and enjoy satisfying careers, university education, social life, and parenthood, just like anyone else.

Take, for example, Adam who works within the Devonport Chaplaincy. Through reasonable adjustments, EPIC was able to assist Adam in the workforce by helping Devonport Chaplaincy to purchase speech to text software.

Head Shot of Adam
EPIC helped Adam get his job at Devonport Chaplaincy more than seven years ago.

Reasonable adjustments, like Adam’s, are essential tools for many people with CP. The right tools at work make all the difference in helping people with disability succeed at work. Speech-to-text software, standing desks, and ergonomic adjustments are just some of these workplace modifications that remove barriers and allow people with disability to succeed at work.

MYTH: Cerebral palsy gets worse over time

FALSE. It is widely thought that cerebral palsy will get worse as a person get older. However, that is not the case. While it is permanent, cerebral palsy will not get worse. But as is the case for many people, as people with CP get older, their symptoms can become more pronounced.

MYTH: All people with cerebral palsy have an intellectual disability

FALSE. CP primarily affects movement and posture, and only half of people with CP have an intellectual disability. The level of intellectual disability can vary.

MYTH: Cerebral palsy is the same for everyone

FALSE. CP affects everyone differently. With so many different causes of CP, it is no surprise that it takes many forms. Every person with cerebral palsy is a unique individual but is likely to be classified as having a particular type of cerebral palsy. Classification can be according to the type of movement disorder and/or by the number of limbs affected. Doctors classify cerebral palsy according to the man type of movement disorder involved.

It is important to remember limbs affected by CP are not paralysed and can feel pain, heat, cold, and pressure. It is also important to remember that, just because someone with cerebral palsy may not be able to speak, it does not mean they have nothing to say.

MYTH: People with cerebral palsy are unable to speak

FALSE. There is a widely shared idea that people with cerebral palsy do not have the ability to speak. This is over exaggerated. Although some people may not be able to produce speech or may only be able to produce sounds, statistics show only one in four people with cerebral palsy cannot talk.

MYTH: People with cerebral palsy do not have independence

FALSE.  While some people with CP require intensive support and care, this is not the case for all. Many adults with cerebral palsy live independent lives. There are many tools and resources people with CP can access to help them live independently, including:

Meaningful employment is a critical step in helping people with disability gain independence. Many organisations have successfully partnered with EPIC to find the right person in the right role within their organisation. Technology for Ageing and Disabled QLD (TADQ), which specialises in assistive technologies, is one such organisation leading this charge. Their receptionist, Taylah, has CP and is a vocal advocate for the impact employment has had on her life.

“Work makes me feel really independent. It gets me out of the house, doing things I haven’t done before, and dealing with new people,” said Taylah.

Maureen, the CEO of TADQ, believes passionately it is the responsibility of employers to hire inclusively and give people with disability the opportunity for meaningful employment, just as they would any other candidate.

“Employment gives people a purpose and a sense of self-worth. To assume that because a person has a disability that they don’t want that, is really wrong,” Maureen said.

“It’s a responsibility of society, and one of the most important things about inclusion. There’s so much of a person wrapped up in an employment situation, you feel like you have an identity.”

Taylah working at her desk
Taylah has cerebral palsy and is the receptionist at Technology for Ageing and Disabled QLD (TADQ).

EPIC Assist is your local disability employment specialist

Here at EPIC Assist, we’ve been helping job seekers with disability connect with inclusive employers for over 30 years. We believe everyone has a right to meaningful employment, and we’re committed to creating communities that are inclusive and diverse.

If you or someone you know has a disability, injury, mental health condition, or health condition, we can help them prepare for, find, and keep a job they love.

If you are an employer looking to open more diverse and inclusive opportunities in your business, we can connect you with job-ready candidates with disability and break down barriers to hiring people with disability.

Ready to break down more disability and mental health misconceptions and myths? Check out our top misconceptions about people with bipolar disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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