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Growing Older With Cerebral Palsy: Insiders' Perspectives

Horsman, Marylyn BA, MSc; Suto, Melinda PhD, OT(C); Dudgeon, Brian PhD, OTR, FAOTA; Harris, Susan R. PT, PhD, FAPTA, FCAHS

doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e3181eabc0f
Research Report

Purpose: Research has shown that adults with cerebral palsy (CP) lose functional abilities earlier than persons who are able-bodied. Because CP is a lifespan disability, developmental therapists should be aware of these changes.

Methods: We used descriptive phenomenology to understand the unique, lived experiences of adults growing older with CP. Data were gathered through in-depth, semistructured interviews. Open-ended questions asked what it was like to age with CP, how these experiences were understood, how strategies were used to cope with changes, and what are the meanings of these experiences.

Results: A theme, Awareness, Acceptance, and Action, emerged from the data analysis. Participants were aware that their bodies were deteriorating quicker than those of peers who are able-bodied. They developed acceptance that hastened actions toward improving their quality of life.

Conclusions: These findings provide insights for pediatric therapists who work with children with CP about what may be important to their clients as they grow older.

This phenomenological study of the perspectives of adults with CP on growing older provides pediatric physical therapists with issues to consider as they work with children with CP and their families.

Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Dr Suto); Division of Occupational Therapy, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle (Dr Dudgeon); Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Dr Harris).

Correspondence: Susan R. Harris, PhD, PT, FAPTA, FCAHS, Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, 212–2177 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada. (susan.harris@ubc.ca).

Grant Support: During part of her graduate studies (2004–2005), Ms Horsman was supported by a University Graduate Fellowship (Shaughnessy Hospital Volunteer Society Fellowship in Health Care) from the University of British Columbia.

This article is derived from Marylyn Horsman's master's thesis, completed in partial fulfillment of the MSc degree in rehabilitation sciences at the University of British Columbia.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.