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Assessment of sensory and cognitive function

Many children with cerebral palsy have specific sensory and cognitive needs that must be managed to maximise the potential of the child. Nearly all children with CP may have, in addition to their motor problems, one or more of the following associated disabilities:

  • sensory handicaps, i.e. impairment of vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Studies have shown that 50% of children with CP have visual problems and 20 to 30% have hearing difficulties.
  • visual and perceptual difficulties which can cause problems in learning to read and write, mathematics and other areas of the school curriculum
  • visual-motor problems which can make a child with CP slow, clumsy and inefficient in both eye-hand and whole body tasks
  • speech difficulties
  • oral and dental difficulties, including problems of feeding, swallowing or excess salivation
  • cognitive and intellectual difficulties: Though some children with CP have cognitive difficulties, many do not. It is vital not to confuse profound or severe physical difficulties with intellectual impairment.

Therefore, it must be ensured that all children with CP are provided with visual, hearing and developmental assessments. This will require the involvement of additional team members, including speech and occupational therapists and psychologists. These team members are also able to identify further needs of the child and provide advice on how they can best be met.

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