Cerebral Palsy, also known as CP, is a common congenital disorder among children. Due to lack of muscle tone, muscle movement and motor skills, movement is usually not purposeful. Over 500,000 adults and children are affected. The majority of those that are affected by this disease are affected before or after birth.
Although children and adults with CP appear to be mentally challenged, in spite of speech and other difficulties, they can understand what is said to them. Many are capable of going to college and obtaining jobs that are more than menial. Some work for the government, police department as dispatchers, and more. Younger children often are able to go to regular schools and attend regular classes.
Premature infants,weighing less than 3.3 pounds at birth have shown to be at higher risk for CP, than those who are full term. However, full-term babies that are considered to be low birth weight babies, are at risk as well.
Babies and children who are brain damaged after birth from infections such as meningitis, lead poisoning, malnutrition, or injured in automobile accidents, especially those who are not properly restrained, as well as those who are victims of “Shaken Baby Syndrome” may become victims to CP.
Spastic CP is the most common form. Stiff and jerky movements are often seen. The child may have difficulty in grasping objects and then letting go of them.
Athetoid is usually caused by brain damage. The cerebellum or basal ganglia of the brain is often affected. These children have little if any control of muscle movement. Their arms, legs will move involuntarily. These are the children with no control of their facial expressions, tongue or swallowing mechanisms, which is the reason that many have their tongues hanging out, and saliva constantly oozing or dripping from their mouth. Their speech is often affected severely, which explains difficulty in understanding some, and others we only hear sounds, without actual words being spoken.
Ataxic is often the rarest form of CP. Like athetoid cerebral palsy, movement is jerky. Grasping objects may be difficult. When walking or moving, these children will appear to be having tremors much like an aged person with Parkinson's and other disorders of our aged community.
It is believed that the brain is damaged before or during the birth process, or for some unknown reason, the brain does not develop correctly. Infection is a consideration. Problems during birth may also be a cause. Lack of oxygen to the brain may also be a culprit.
Premature infants who require mechanical ventilation long-term, and those who require high levels of oxygen have been considered to be at risk for CP as well. These babies also have incidences of brain bleeds which may play a part in this disease as well.
Diagnosis of CP is not automatic. Babies who are considered to be at risk, are evaluated and often monitored as they get older for any signs of developmental delay. What is considered to be a normal, healthy baby, during the various developmental stages, may be behind in reaching what is considered to be normal milestones. Not every child grabs, rolls over, sits up, etc at the same age or time. There are those such as premature babies will be behind the healthy full-term infant. During visits to the pediatrician, muscle tone, development is monitored. If delays are seen, it is possible that continued monitoring may be done, or further investigations are done
The treatment for Cerebral Palsy will vary among each child. Early diagnosis allows the child to begin physical therapy as soon as possible. As they get older, other therapies such as speech, therapy can also begin.
Various treatments are used to assist with muscle function. Braces are often used. There are medications, and at times surgical intervention is used to improve muscle function. Surgery may be done to fix abnormalities such as hip dislocation and scoliosis which is a spinal curvature that is usually found in older children.
Because the exact cause of cerebral palsy is not known, there is little that can be done to prevent it. However, if the possibilities that are already suspected, there are preventive measures that should be taken.
During pregnancy, the mother should obtain regular prenatal care, eat properly, and take the proper vitamins including folic acid. As with any pregnancy, do not take any medications without the approval of the physician.
To prevent infections that may cause CP, be sure to take your infant to the pediatrician for regular check-ups and keep all immunizations up-to-date.
Most know that “The Shaken Baby Syndrome” is a form of severe child abuse. However, a child of any age can be brain damaged in a automobile accident if they are not in the appropriate infant or toddler seat and properly restrained in the correct position, or restrained properly with seatbelts.
Written By Linda Smith
Linda is an advocate for those with disabilities and special needs of all ages. It is important that society understands the various issues which affect the daily life of those with special needs. With adaptive products and assistive technology, disabled adults and special needs children can have a more enjoyable life. You can read more about the various products and about myself at: