Cerebral Palsy

Children with cerebral palsy have difficulty coordinating muscles and often experience symptoms like:
  • ataxia, unsteadiness
  • spasticity, stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes
  • seizures
  • walking with one foot or leg dragging
  • walking on the toes
  • a crouched or scissored gait, walk
  • muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy
The abnormalities that cause cerebral palsy in children can happen for a number of reasons:
  • brain development problems during pregnancy or at birth
  • brain infections (such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis)
  • brain bleeds in premature babies

Children with cerebral palsy experience symptoms that range from mild to severe and generally appear before age 3, sometimes as early as infancy or early childhood.

Limited Mobility Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

A student's mobility can be limited for a variety of reasons, including disease, injuries, or birth defects. Spinal cord injuries, paralysis, amputations, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, and cerebral palsy are examples of conditions that can limit a student's mobility. Mobility may be limited in the lower body, upper body, or both.

Students with limited mobility may:

  • use splints, casts, leg braces, canes, crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs
  • need extra time, as well as assistance, moving around classrooms, between classes, and throughout school
  • may be late to class due to difficulties getting around
  • miss class time to participate in occupational or physical therapy during the school day
  • use adaptive technology to help with writing, drawing, and other activities
  • need extra time to complete assignments
  • need special seats and desks or tables, and extra space for wheelchairs or other equipment
  • need other students or a scribe to take notes for them; or have class lectures, discussions, and activities recorded via video or audio
  • have specific accommodations listed in individualized education programs (IEP) or 504 education plans

What Teachers Can Do

Many students who depend on equipment to improve their mobility (whether temporarily or permanently) need to learn how to use it in many different situations in school and at home. In some cases, this can be a challenging and frustrating process for them.

You may need to modify the classroom environment, revise your teaching strategies, and make other adjustments. The accommodations you make for your students will depend on the specific impairment and the classroom environment. Make sure the classroom is easy to get around and free from obstacles. Encourage your students to ask for assistance when needed and to plan their routines and tasks ahead of time.

Have an evacuation plan in place in case of fire drills or emergency situations so all of your students can leave the classroom quickly and safely.

Make sure students with mobility issues are included in all classroom activities and any field trips, and that transportation arrangements are accessible by all students.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 11, 2016