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Communicating with parents

Telling parents that their child has hemiplegia or cerebral palsy (CP) is a critical event. Research has shown that the way in which parents are informed that their child has CP has a dramatic impact. The majority of parents often recount details about how they were told: who told them, when, where, and what they were told.

The way parents are given the diagnosis is important. It may influence how they build up an ongoing relationship with their child and the team caring for their child, and moreover how they interact with those professionals.

A survey of parents on their feelings about the care their child received identified two areas of dissatisfaction: general information and specific information. In addition, research has shown that only 37% of parents were satisfied with the way in which they were told their child had a disability.

Interview quality

If giving the diagnosis does not go well, parents (or professionals) may put up defence mechanisms which can hinder further progress. This can be exacerbated by parents with disabled children being described within a pathological framework, with professionals considering them 'over-emotional' or 'unable to accept the diagnosis'.

Blame attachment

The parents may feel they can blame the professionals for not listening or communicating properly and unfortunately some health professionals may feel they can blame the parents for any dissatisfaction they experience at the time of diagnosis.

In reality, apportioning blame is inappropriate - the problem is that the two sides are hearing different things.

Knowledge about cerebral palsy

Parents may know very little about hemiplegia or CP. They may also be too shocked to formulate and ask questions at the time they are given the diagnosis of CP.

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