Approaches to Caring
for Persons with Cerebral Palsy

When treating persons with cerebral palsy, as well as other developmental disabilities, different approaches to care are often necessary compared to the care of a patient without a disability. Two such approaches are the interdisciplinary approach and the family centered approach. Both approaches involve drawing on the expertise of other individuals in order to provide optimal health care for the patient.

The interdisciplinary approach involves teams of medical professionals from such backgrounds as physicians (including pediatricians, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists and physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists as appropriate), nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists and orthotics consultants. The team identifies specific problems and issues which must be addressed, and collaborates with one another to find optimal solutions. As such, this approach is interdisciplinary, and not simply multidisciplinary (which would indicate discipline- specific solutions only).

The family centered approach involves drawing on the life expertise of family members and other caregivers who are involved in the patient's life. Realizing that these individuals are the ones most intimately familiar with the patient's overall health (other than the patient him or herself, of course), it would be remiss to not involve them in the overall treatment program. Such persons may include parents, siblings, personal care attendants, spouses or children of the patient. Some programs have even included families as faculty members in educating medical professionals on the care and treatment of individuals with disabilities. Such persons not only have a great deal of knowledge regarding the patient, but often have unique and different perspectives on what may work best in terms of treatment.

When patients with cerebral palsy are seen for well patient examinations, the physician should be aware of several areas of common concern. Several of these include:

  • Asthma / Reactive Airways Disease and Upper Airway Obstruction
  • Constipation
  • Dental Care
  • Gastroesophegeal Reflux and Oral-Motor Dysfunction
  • Hip Dislocation, Scoliosis, and Contractures
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Infant Colic and Neurologic Irritability
  • Nutrition
  • Osteoporosis
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Sexuality and Health
  • Skin Breakdown and Pressure Sores (Decubitus Ulcers)
  • Spasticity
  • Urinary Tract Disorders


Pelligrino, L. and Meyer, G. (1998). Interdisciplinary care in the child with cerebral palsy. In J. P. Dormans and L. Pelligrino (Eds.), Caring for Children With Cerebral Palsy: A Team Approach. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Pelligrino, L. (1998). Well-child care and health maintenance. In J. P. Dormans and L. Pelligrino (Eds.), Caring for Children With Cerebral Palsy: A Team Approach. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.