Learn more about CP and how some W.A.G.S. children have been impacted
· Cerebral Palsy
March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. According to CerebralPalsy.org, Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that occurs as a result of a brain injury or malformation that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing. Around 500,000 children under the age of 18 currently have cerebral palsy. As of now, there is no cure, but bringing awareness to the disorder may change that fact in the future.
In other words, cerebral palsy is a physical challenge that impacts the development of movement. Impairment can vary considerably and no two people with cerebral palsy are affected in exactly the same way. The problems that children and adults with face, including lack of inclusion, are often similar.
Over the years, W.A.G.S. 4 Kids has trained and provided service dogs for children with a range of disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy. Below are some of the things we’ve learned about cerebral palsy, and how the lives of those children have been impacted along the way.
1. Each person diagnosed with cerebral palsy is affected differently, and it can range from mild to severe.
While each cerebral palsy diagnosis is unique to an individual, living life with a physical disability can be very isolating emotionally. The ability to make friends can prove difficult, as children may not know how to approach someone with a disability.
One of our W.A.G.S. moms, Suzi, explained what she loved about the things service dog AJ was doing for her son Myles.
She said, “My favorite thing about bringing AJ places is that instead of people, mostly kids, saying ‘Look at that kid in the walker, what’s wrong with him’ it’s ‘Wow mom, look at that kid with the dog, it’s really cool.’”
This factor was important for Suzi because she realized that while inclusion may not have been as noticable for young Myles, he would one day notice that he had differences from other children his age.
2. Individuals with cerebral palsy are not always able to utilize speech and other methods of communication are used instead.
In Myles’ case, he was non-verbal and communicated with simple sign language. In August 2018, Myles’ dad, Vince, thought back to when W.A.G.S. service dog AJ became part of their family.
“When he came to us, Myles could speak, he couldn’t speak very well at all. They trained AJ all in sign language,” Vince said. “He had over 20 or 30 different signs that AJ knew that Myles could communicate with him.”
Because of the connection with AJ, Myles began to overcome barriers when it came to his cerebral palsy. During their time together, Myles began to speak and eventually started to communicate to his service dog, AJ.
3. Motor skills can be impaired in different ways when it comes to cerebral palsy.
Depending on the severity, some people need assistance like walkers, cains or gait trainers while others need a wheelchair. For TuYen, her walk was often shaky and unsteady, causing her to need bracing assistance.
“Instead of just walking straight, my gait is more side to side,” TuYen explained. “It makes me more steady to have him next to me and to hold on to his brace,” TuYen said of her service dog Noah’s help. “Basically what he does is stands and walks next to me and basically provides help with balancing and sometimes he helps me get up in a smoother way or when my legs are sore.”
It’s for kids like Myles and TuYen – along with other past, present and future W.A.G.S. 4 Kids’ children – that we hope to spread awareness for cerebral palsy. This March, we wear green for more than St. Patrick’s Day. We wear green to recognize all individuals living with cerebral palsy. It is with more awareness that the future can be even brighter.
Cerebral palsy is what someone has, not who they are. The human spirit is one of ability, perseverance, and courage that no disability can steal away.
If you’d like to help a child like Myles and TuYen receive their service dog, please click below to donate.