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Cerebral palsy and adolescence

Young adults with cerebral palsy talk about the 'thrust' into adulthood
Cerebral palsy

Nine adults with cerebral palsy, aged 19-34, took part in focus groups with the aims of discovering their experiences of transitioning into adulthood. The common themes highlighted by the study were: feelings of being thrust into adulthood, the challenges of finding their way through services and systems, the trials of understanding and coping with changes to their bodies, and experiences of feeling prejudice from others.

The participants, four men and five women, were graduates from mainstream high schools in the US and had conversational level verbal skills. They highlighted that the transition into adulthood provided a steep learning curve, where they now had to be more independent and they were suddenly aware of what others had done for them. They found the prospect and the challenges of managing their own needs daunting and

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Nine adults with cerebral palsy, aged 19-34, took part in focus groups with the aims of discovering their experiences of transitioning into adulthood. The common themes highlighted by the study were: feelings of being ‘thrust’ into adulthood, the challenges of finding their way through services and systems, the trials of understanding and coping with changes to their bodies, and experiences of feeling prejudice from others.


The transition to adulthood can be complicated for people with disabilities. Picture: Alamy

The participants, four men and five women, were graduates from mainstream high schools in the US and had conversational level verbal skills. They highlighted that the transition into adulthood provided a steep learning curve, where they now had to be more independent and they were suddenly aware of what others had done for them. They found the prospect and the challenges of managing their own needs daunting and frightening.

The participants also spoke about the move into adulthood bringing an increased amount of pain, fatigue and increased physical problems such as stiffness, and needing more support.

Transition to independence

Adulthood brought some positive experiences too, such as the opportunity to be involved in social groups, however many of them had felt inferior to other group members without disabilities as they felt that their needs as adults, such as the desire to date people, were not appreciated.

People with learning disabilities who have cerebral palsy are not represented in this research, however it provides valuable insight into how the transition into adult services can affect people with disabilities. It also reminds us, as service providers, that while reaching adulthood is a time for celebration, the transition to independence needs to occur at a pace set by the individual, not one controlled by service provision or on assumptions that they are ready for the ‘thrust’ into adulthood.

Bagatelle N, Chan D, Raunch K et al (2017) ‘Thrust into adulthood’: transition experiences of young adults with cerebral palsy. Disability and Health Journal. 10, 1, 80-86. doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2016.09.008

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