Teaching Students with Cerebral Palsy

Karen, 1962--11 years old and in 6th grade. Teeth missing to make way for braces. Studying alone in her special ed class.

Educating children is tough enough without throwing disabilities into the mix!

Often, teachers feel intimidated by the prospect of taking on a student with special needs.

They know that without the right knowledge, understanding, and foresight, teaching a student with special needs may be beyond their capabilities.

However, if you are properly prepared, teaching a child with a disability—watching them grow, develop, achieve their goals, and surpass everyone’s wildest expectations—can be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your career as a teacher.

As with anything in life, the key to success is proper preparation!

3 Crucial Tips for Teaching Students with Cerebral Palsy

1. Understand your student’s specific disability traits
Understand your student’s specific disability. Whether living with a disability or not, every child is unique. Just because your student has cerebral palsy doesn’t mean they will be anything like any other child with cerebral palsy.

Make an effort to understand your student’s specific disability. For example, if your student has difficulty with mathematics (dyscalculia), keep that in mind and allow extra time to ensure that they understand each new mathematical concept as it is taught.

When it comes to class participation, be careful when you call on your student. If you call on your student to answer a question that is beyond their current depth, this will put unnecessary stress on them. If, however, you ask your student a question that they can answer confidently, you will give them a great experience and a significant self-esteem boost.

With this knowledge, you will be able to incorporate the student into your teaching activities and allow them to participate, increasing their confidence, self-esteem, and sense of independence.

2. Ensure that students with special needs aren’t treated as different
If you are teaching a class of children and intend to incorporate a child with a disability into that class, make sure that your current students understand that a child with special needs should not be treated as different.

Studies consistently show that kids with special needs are bullied more often. Make it clear that discrimination will not be tolerated. Children with special needs want to feel normal and welcomed, so the best thing you and your students can do is to talk to them and include them just like anyone else.

3. Educate children about their classmate’s disability
The more your students understand the nature of their classmate’s disability, the better they will like their classmate. They will be much more likely to treat them as a peer and incorporate them into their social activities without awkwardness. The more we can educate each other about how to treat, include, and care for individuals with special needs, the more attitudes and mindsets will change for the benefit of all involved.

Disability Support Resources for Teachers

Teaching strategies for students with cerebral palsy

General information about cerebral palsy

Foundation dedicated to funding research and educational activities related to cerebral palsy