Child Safety - Miller & Zois

Cerebral Palsy Home Safety

Safety Guidelines for Children With Cerebral Palsy

Considered the most common motor disability in childhood, Cerebral Palsy (also known as “CP”) is an oftentimes debilitating disease that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain their balance and posture. It is caused by abnormal brain development or damage during brain development, which in turn affects the ability to control the body’s muscles.

Naturally, the safety and security of your child is a top priority for every parent. Although CP does affect your child’s motor skills, preventing them from injury and harm is not all that different compared to a child without disabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several steps that can be taken by parents and caregivers that will help to keep children with disabilities like CP safe:

  • Educate yourself about potential health concerns or special conditions that are unique to your child.
  • Plan ways ahead of time to protect your child and be sure to share your plans with others.
  • Always keep in mind that every child is unique, and their needs for protection will evolve and change over time.

As the parent of a child with cerebral palsy, it is important to keep in mind that although your child will live with this disease for their entire lives, this does not necessarily mean that it must physically limit them. As you work to ensure that your child is as independently capable as possible, an excellent place to start is in the home.

Home Modifications

Home modifications are defined as any changes that are made to your home in the effort to remove any environmental barriers that could potentially limit a child with disabilities. When there are environmental barriers in your home, they will prevent your child from being independent which will in turn promote a lack of participation and feelings of isolation.

Thankfully, there are preventative measures that you can take by making any modifications that will remove these barriers and improve your child’s life. This could include

  • Installing a ramp to the front of your home for easy wheelchair accessibility
  • Adding a lift to your home’s interior stairs for easier access to the second floor
  • Lowering the sink in your bathroom to accommodate your child’s reach
  • Spacing your furniture in a way that makes it easier for a mobility device to get around the room
  • Using a refrigerator that has sliding drawers and shelves for easier access
  • Using a roll out sink in the kitchen
  • Installing railings next to toilets and baths
  • Adding a seat in the shower for easier bathing
  • Installing accessible locks and door handles
  • Using smart technology to control lights and other home devices from a phone

Most children with cerebral palsy experience some degree of physical disability, from needing assistance with walking to being completely unable to walk, among others. A home should be just as accessible to a child with disabilities as it is for anyone else living there, which means that it may be necessary for you to install physical modifications so that your child can live happily and independently.

Physical Modifications in Your Home

There are varying degrees of physical modifications that you can make to your home, all of which will help your child to be more independent. This could mean something as simple as preventing accidental slip and falls by laying rugs down on your hardwood floors using no-slip backings, or something more complicated like installing light systems that can alert a child with limited hearing when there is a phone call or visitor at the door. When you begin to make these physical modifications in your home, there are a few things to keep in mind so that you can be sure that your child is as independently capable as possible:

  • Access into and out of your home
  • Access throughout the interior of your home (i.e., providing devices to go up and down stairs)
  • Hallways that are wide enough for wheelchair access
  • Easy access to a bathroom where everything is reachable
  • Hard floors or low-pile carpeting
  • Outlet access
  • Easy to open doors and windows
  • Grab bars on reinforced walls

It may seem like a daunting task to completely modify your home, but the results are more than worth the effort. Making adjustments and modifications to your home that will better accommodate your child with disabilities means that you are giving them greater access and independence in their life. Ultimately, this will give your child higher self esteem and confidence in themselves while also promoting an inclusive environment.

Sources and Additional Literature

Boniface, G., et al. (2017). The central role of the occupational therapist in facilitating housing adaptations/home modifications for disabled children. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 80(6), 375-383.

Miller, F., et al. (2017). Cerebral palsy: A complete guide for caregiving. JHU Press.

Almasri, N. A., et al. (2011). Determinants of needs of families of children and youth with cerebral palsy. Children's Health Care, 40(2), 130-154.

Liptak, G. S., et al. (2011). Providing a primary care medical home for children and youth with cerebral palsy.

Palisano, R. J., et al. (2010). Family needs of parents of children and youth with cerebral palsy. Child: care, health and development, 36(1), 85-92.

Hutchings, B. L., et al. (2008). Environmental evaluations and modifications to support aging at home with a developmental disability. Journal of Housing for the Elderly, 22(4), 286-310.