The physical effects that come hand in hand with cerebral palsy are well-documented, but can it also have a detrimental effect on someone’s social skills? Take a look…

Cerebral Palsy is the term used for a group of permanent conditions which affect someone’s movement and coordination. It’s caused by a problem that develops in the brain before, during or soon after birth, with the symptoms varying significantly from person to person. This might urge someone to claim compensation for cerebral palsy at birth due to the lifelong challenges it can pose.

While most people recognise these additional challenges, much less is made of the psychological and social effects of the condition. Could, for example, someone with cerebral palsy have difficulties developing their social skills? And could someone with cerebral palsy be more likely to become introverted?

If you’re looking for answers to these questions, then you’re in the right place! In this post, we’ll be diving deep into what cerebral palsy is, and the impact it can have on someone’s social skills. We’ll then take a look at whether being introverted can affect them even further.

What Cerebral Palsy Symptoms Affect Someone’s Social Skills?

Communication Issues

Cerebral palsy can influence a person’s ability to effectively communicate. This is because the muscles around the mouth and tongue which are needed for speech often fail to develop as they should. A 2012 study conducted by Swedish researchers found that speech problems affect more than half of all children who have cerebral palsy.

This, of course, will restrict their ability to effectively socialise with others. If someone finds it difficult to communicate from a young age, they’re much more likely to go within their shell and demonstrate introverted tendencies as they grow older. 

Constant Pain

Pain is a direct result of the physical impairments associated with cerebral palsy, with 3 in 4 people with the condition experiencing frequent pain. This sort of pain can have an impact on a person’s behaviour and ability to form social relationships.

People with cerebral palsy may understandably avoid certain situations that are important for their independence. This might include attending school and social events, which can negatively affect their general skills.

Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disabilities are common among people with cerebral palsy. Generally, the greater the level of someone’s physical impairment, the more likely it is that they will also suffer from an intellectual disability. 

Individuals with learning disabilities are likely to be less observant in social surroundings and often struggle to properly interpret the behaviour and actions of others. When this gets in the way of forming close social bonds, it’s only natural that these individuals become less confident and introverted.

Hearing and Vision Impairments

Hearing and vision impairments are not uncommon in people with cerebral palsy, which can have a significant effect on social development. Without these vital senses, the social skills children naturally acquire are much more difficult to artificially foster.

This is especially true with regards to visual impairments. Prior research indicates that around 80 percent of what we learn and acquire is done through vision and observation. If someone’s vision is impaired, it takes a lot of extra work to help them develop even the simplest social skills.

Sleep Issues

We all know how much difference a good night’s sleep can make to our general mood and behaviour, right? Many people with cerebral palsy unfortunately struggle to get the right amount of sleep, due to factors such as muscle spasms and musculo-skeletal pain.

Research from the University of California found that poor sleep can foster ‘viral loneliness’ and ‘social rejection’. As you might expect, these claims tie in with the notion that having cerebral palsy may increase the chances of someone becoming introverted as they grow older.

How Can Someone with Cerebral Palsy’s Social Skills Be Improved? 

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are a number of ways in which someone with cerebral palsy can improve their social skills and boost their confidence. Here are just some of the most notable…

Developing Interests

Every child, regardless of whether they have cerebral palsy or not, will have their own hobbies and interests that bring out the best in them. So, if there are clear signs that someone with cerebral palsy is struggling with their social skills and are displaying signs of introversion, their loved ones are usually encouraged to develop their interests to aid their development.

This could be anything, from sports, arts and crafts, or music. Whatever they enjoy is likely to bring them out of their shell.  

Practicing Effective Communication Methods

Persisting with traditional methods of communication, even when they’re found to be ineffective, is a regressive approach to social development in people with cerebral palsy.

So, if someone struggled to use verbal communication, it’s more beneficial for their development to focus on alternative methods as early as possible – such as sign language. This will provide them with a much-needed boost.

Enrol in Recreational Therapy 

Recreational therapy uses leisure activities to help people who have specific health conditions (such as cerebral palsy) to improve their skills, abilities, and emotional wellbeing.

It’s often used to help strengthen social connections and increase self-esteem in individuals who are otherwise struggling. This is primarily done by designing therapy around individual interests and needs.

Are You Looking to Support Someone with Cerebral Palsy?

To summarise, we’ve assessed what sort of affect cerebral palsy can have on an individual’s social skills, explaining how this might lead to introversion and how these patterns can be addressed.

Of course, everybody’s situation will be different and the varied nature of cerebral means that these pointers aren’t necessarily universal – though they do cover a wide basis. Just remember, this article is for informational purposes only, so be sure to seek the advice of a medical professional before trying any of the methods described above.

Do you know someone whose social skills have been affected by cerebral palsy? If so, feel free to leave a comment below with your own experiences so we can keep the discussion going!