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According to one parent of a child with cerebral palsy, "The way you accept and the way you begin to deal with the situation starts with those first words that you hear".

People may react in different ways to being told that their child has CP. Many parents report that it is initially like receiving a death sentence before they have time to adjust to the news and its implications.

Most parents of a disabled child will mourn the child they might have had, but at the same time they adjust to living with their 'different' child. Having a disabled child does not usually fit in with the view parents may hold of themselves or of the world. Their views have to change if the family is to adjust to new roles and responsibilities.

Four stages

Bereavement analysis proposes four stages for adjustment:

  • shock - psychological confusion and feelings of grief or numbness may be experienced
  • reaction - feelings of anger and denial may alternate with sadness and anxiety
  • adaptation - parents seek out ways of helping the child
  • orientation - parents begin actively to plan ahead

In reality, parents are likely to slip in and out of these stages at different times. However, they provide a useful framework within which both professionals and parents can work.

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