Passion: Careers Working With Cerebral Palsy Patients

Cerebral palsy has so many predisposing factors – from prematurity and low birth weight to diseases contracted during pregnancy. The disorder wears so many faces; a person may have one of several types and have mild to severe impairment in different areas of the body.

Like the condition itself, careers in cerebral palsy are varied. There’s no one degree that you take in school. You can support those with cerebral palsy in any number of capacities. It depends somewhat on your previous education. If you have a degree in a science or social science field, some doors will open more easily. Even a degree in engineering, though, has possibilities. This article focuses on careers within the health care industry.

Early Intervention Specialist

Early intervention specialists support children and families during those critical first three years. They may be nurses, early childhood development or family studies majors, or social workers. Some also enter through the special education field.

Individuals in this field work with children with a number of physical or cognitive delays. If you’re interested specifically in cerebral palsy, you’ll want to look to organizations like United Cerebral Palsy for employment. Look into internship opportunities well in advance – United Cerebral Palsy does take on interns in various areas. So do other organizations like Upstate Cerebral Palsy in New York.

Physical Therapist/ Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy is part of the mainstay of cerebral palsy treatment. Physical therapists now have doctorate level education, though physical therapy assistants can secure positions with an associate’s degree. Both carry out therapies with cerebral palsy patients. PTAs actually do much of the hands-on work because PTS are responsible for assessment and planning.

If you have a baccalaureate degree and a strong science background, you may be a candidate for physical therapist school. You generally need to complete some observation hours beforehand, and these hours may need to be served in more than one setting.

If you’re considering becoming a PTA and you don’t yet have a degree, you may want to look for a job first as a physical therapy aide. At this level, you won’t be carrying out interventions; you will, however, interact with patients and assist with basic mobility.

Speech and Language Therapist

When neurological or muscular issues prevent a person from speaking clearly, it’s the speech language pathologist who steps in. Speech language therapy does generally require a master’s degree, but you can enter a program with a major in one of any number of fields.

Residential Supervisor or House Manager

Many individuals with cerebral palsy reside in supported living environments. The educational requirements for direct care workers are low. To be a house manager, though, you generally need a bachelor’s degree. If you are a very strong candidate, an associate’s may suffice for a house manager position. Your degree should be in some social service field, but there is no one preferred degree. Higher level management positions may ask for a master’s degree.

Biomedical Engineer

Who designs the equipment that helps people with cerebral palsy and other mobility disorders lead more normal lives? Medical equipment is designed and perfected by biomedical engineers. There are jobs at different levels from bachelor’s to PhD. Although biomedical engineering is its own discipline, you can transition from other branches of engineering.

Next Steps

It’s a good idea to do a scan of job postings well in advance, particularly if you are considering furthering your education – that way, you have a clear sense of where you need to be. There are two ways that you can search for cerebral palsy careers on national job board sites like Simply Hired. You may enter ‘cerebral palsy’ as a key word or you may enter the word ‘company’ followed by a colon, and then cerebral palsy in parentheses. The latter will return only positions with cerebral palsy in the company name. This is a good method if you want a sampling of some of the best positions nationwide; some, though, will slip through the cracks. It’s also good to maintain ties with local organizations.