A Comprehensive Cerebral Palsy Resource


If you have a healthy child, you already know you can send your child to public or private school.  However, if you have a child with cerebral palsy, you may not be sure how education will work for him or her.

The best learning environment for your child with cerebral palsy depends largely on how much cerebral palsy has affected his or her cognitive capabilities and in part on the resources available in your community.  A child with typical cognitive capabilities can attend public or private schools and learn in the same classroom as his or her classmates.  In general, public schools more so than private schools, have the resources necessary to provide your child with a quality education.

A child who can maintain the pace of a classroom for some subjects but not others can still attend a public school.  He or she simply attends classes where he or she functions at grade level, and then works with a special education teacher in subjects in which he or she struggles.

In cases where your child’s cognitive capabilities have been impacted severely, he or she may attend special education classes only, or a private school attended exclusively by children with various disabilities.

Unfortunately, helping your child get the education he or she needs can be a long process, much like helping him or her receive the diagnosis of cerebral palsy.  To begin the process, contact your local public school immediately.

Start the Process as Soon as Possible

If you suspect your child’s cerebral palsy affects his or her cognitive abilities in any way, be sure to contact your local public school, United Cerebral Palsy chapter, or other nonprofit disabilities services organization.  Very often, children who are a bit behind the typical cognitive abilities of a child their age can catch up, or even get ahead, if they start school at an earlier age.

The Quality of Education for People with Cerebral Palsy Varies by State

In general, the quality and opportunity for education for children with cerebral palsy depends largely on the state in which you reside.  Many families move to certain states and metropolitan areas specifically for the purpose of getting their child the help he or she needs.  Some states fund “early childhood” (pre-kindergarten) and “special education” more aggressively than others.

States leading in terms of their ability to effectively help all people with disabilities lead higher quality lifestyles include:

1. Vermont
2. Arizona
3. Michigan
4. New Hampshire
5. California
6. Washington
7. Delaware
8. Nevada
9. Massachusetts

If you have a child with cerebral palsy, states to avoid include:

1. Indiana
2. North Carolina
3. Utah
4. Oklahoma
5. Nebraska
6. District of Columbia
7. Illinois
8. Texas
9. Arkansas
10. Mississippi

*Source:  The Case for 2011 Inclusion by United Cerebral Palsy

Metropolitan areas leading in special education services include Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Boston.

Beware of the Reality of Special Education

While certain localities may be more desirable than others in terms of the amount of support they provide for children with cerebral palsy, not every school within that locality may serve your child in the best way possible.  Also remember that states were rated in terms of their ability to provide effective outcomes for children with cerebral palsy.  Other states did allocate more funding, but that didn’t necessarily lead to a higher level of effectiveness.

Who Pays for Your Child’s Education?

Unfortunately, there are many ins and outs to answering this question, and many of the answers to this question depend upon the state and school district in which your reside.  Additionally, many contentious court cases have recently erupted regarding who has the responsibility to pay for special education expenses.   To receive definitive answers to your questions, contact your local department of social services, United Cerebral Palsy chapter, or public school.

Any of these sources can help you start heading in the right direction.  If you would like to learn some of the circumstances affecting  who pays for your child’s education, continue reading this page.

  • In general, your child’s general educational needs are covered by the public school system as long as he or she attends public school. The costs of reasonable special education services are covered until your child is 21, if he or she needs to attend high school until that age.
  • In some cases, parents have taken public school systems to court to pay for their child’s tuition at a private school.  Whether private tuition is covered by a public school or not depends upon what each individual school district has decided.
  • Public schools are required by federal law to provide a  “free and appropriate education.”  If your child requires an assistive technology device such as a speech or picture board used to enhance communication, the device must be paid for by the school district.  But, the device must be clearly identified as part of your child’s education according to his or her Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
  • In some states, private insurance carriers are legally required to pay for services assisting in your child’s special education such as transportation, physical therapy, and speech therapy.
  • While private insurance and Medicaid do have some legal requirements to assist in paying for your child’s education, the public school system is required to pay for your child’s education.  Public schools may not force you to pay for services with private insurance or Medicaid.  Keep in mind that it is easy to quickly use the lifetime cap of your insurance.

If you are getting the idea that helping your child receive the funding for the education he or she needs is challenging, you are correct.  While public schools are required by federal law to provide your child with a “free and appropriate education,” they are not always compliant with the law.

In many cases, you will find strong resistance or apathy when it comes to your child’s education, even though he or she is legally entitled to one.  On a case-by-case basis, school districts and states decide what funding covers in regard to your child’s education.

Teaching Techniques for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Unfortunately, while many teachers are determined to include every child equally throughout the educational process, not all are.  In many cases, you will meet teachers and other school staff who are careless in their approach to including all children in the educational process.

Some general tips you should think about as you go through the educational process include:

  • Does your child’s teacher treat him or her as a responsibility or “problem?”
  • Is the teacher willing to be flexible and make reasonable accommodation in order to make sure your child is included?
  • Are teachers communicative with you regarding your child’s progress on a regular basis?
  • Do teachers seem to respect your input and follow through on reasonable requests?