Understanding Cerebral Palsy: A Guide for Parents

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for injuries to the developing brain that occur in the initial years of life (during pregnancy or soon after birth). It is by far the most frequent cause of physical impairment in children. Cerebral palsy can affect a child in various ways, from moderate to severe. Parenting a child with cerebral palsy can necessitate greater involvement than parenting one without a disability.

Unfortunately, when you learn that your child has cerebral palsy, your entire world changes – hearing this diagnosis is challenging. However, it’s critical to move forward with helping your child on their path.

Upon learning that your child has cerebral palsy, you must determine what this entails for your child and your family. Like other parents and caregivers, you may have several questions regarding cerebral palsy, including some of the professional terminology. You could be worried about how you’ll manage and whether you’ll be able to care for your child at home. You can also have concerns regarding medical and therapeutic resources and services.

Cerebral Palsy

So, below we’ll answer the most common questions parents and caregivers have regarding cerebral palsy.

Categories of Cerebral Palsy

Before we look at the different categories of this disorder, it’s important to remember that figuring out the cause is equally significant. In most instances, birth traumas are a primary cause of cerebral palsy. Therefore, as a parent, you must seek cerebral palsy legal help while still in the middle of the investigative process for the underlying cause.

When a child’s condition is discovered early in life, it is critical to evaluate the problem carefully. Identifying the type can assist you in maintaining your priority areas. Cerebral palsy is commonly categorized into four categories, ranging in severity from a slightly uneven walk to whole-body paralysis needing the use of a wheelchair:

1. Spastic cerebral palsy

It develops when muscles are too tight, resulting in stiff body movement. It’s the most prevalent type of cerebral palsy, accounting for most cases.

2. Athetoid cerebral palsy

It is characterized by writhing motions that are sluggish and uncontrolled. The arms, legs, hands, and feet are usually affected. Drooling or grimacing might occur if the muscles of the face or tongue are compromised.

3. Ataxic cerebral palsy

In this type, depth perception and balance are affected. Patients with this condition typically walk unsteadily, with their feet spread wide apart, and have difficulty with precise movement (i.e., buttoning a shirt).

4. Hypotonic cerebral palsy

It is usually characterized by low muscle tone and weakness, particularly in the trunk, arms, and legs, but strong reflexes (such as the knee swing).

How did this diagnosis come to my child?

The majority of cerebral palsy diagnoses occur before the age of three. Children with mild cerebral palsy, on the other hand, may not be diagnosed until they are four or five years old. Suppose a doctor suspects a child has cerebral palsy. In that case, they will usually make an appointment to monitor the child’s physical and behavioral progress. A doctor makes a cerebral palsy diagnosis by following a sequence of steps.

Examining the medical histories of both the parents and the child

It is a crucial initial step since it helps the doctor better understand your worries as a parent. While also reviewing the results of your child’s past testing and medical history. It also aids the doctor in avoiding redundant testing, which can be extremely distressing for your child.

Taking a look at your child’s development

The doctor will normally inquire about your child’s age when they first walk, crawl, or roll over. It will allow your doctor to evaluate if your child’s development history shows any signs of cerebral palsy.

Assessing the child’s motor abilities

It is usually when the doctor examines your child’s posture and muscular tone to discover any abnormalities. These are some common symptoms of cerebral palsy, and they will play a significant role in your child’s diagnosis.

Checking your child’s reflexes and early hand preference development

If the child prefers to use one hand over the other or favors the left or right side of their body will also provide more evidence for a cerebral palsy diagnosis.

Taking particular tests and administering them

These tests are provided to your child to rule out other causes of movement issues in your child, such as cerebral palsy. Or to discover more about the brain injury caused by Cerebral Palsy.

An MRI scan, or magnetic resonance imaging, provides a doctor with brain images to study and blood testing for hereditary and other neurological problems.

Medically, what should you expect?

Many children with cerebral palsy can live fully independently with proper care. 25% of children with cerebral palsy have a moderate type, meaning they have little trouble walking or doing other activities. Almost half of all kids with cerebral palsy (CP) have moderate impairments and require help for the rest of their lives. About one-fourth of children suffer severe cerebral palsy, requiring substantial support and preventing them from walking. Most of the three-quarters of people with cerebral palsy who can walk will need assistance.

Your child’s primary care physician should continue to see them regularly for medical treatment and preventive screenings. On the other hand, cerebral palsy patients are more susceptible to certain medical consequences. Some of these may be present in your child or develop over time, but not everyone with CP experiences them. The more severe the cerebral palsy, such as spastic quadriplegia, the greater the risk of problems for the child. These are some of them:

  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Mental Retardation
  • Orthopedic issues
  • Problems with the lungs or the respiratory system
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Cerebral Palsy Management and Treatment

Although cerebral palsy has no cure, several treatments can help your child reach their full potential — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Early, intensive management, which focuses on functioning, capabilities, and quality of life, can typically improve your child’s symptoms. Experts have provided a brief look at some of these therapies.

  • Physical therapy to walk more smoothly, stretch the muscles, and avoid abnormalities.
  • Occupational therapy develops daily living methods, focusing on activities like dressing.
  • Speaking therapy is available to assist with any swallowing issues or speech impairments.
  • Braces can aid with posture and walking by compensating for muscular imbalance.
  • Mechanical aids such as wheelchairs or walkers are to increase mobility.
  • Communication devices (such as computers) can help the more severely disabled.
  • Medications are to minimize shaking and relax muscles. Muscle relaxants, such as Baclofen, and injections into the muscles, like Botox or botulinum toxin, are the most regularly recommended medications. If your child has seizures or epilepsy, you may need medication.
  • Surgery is critical to correct anatomical defects or release tense muscles.

Conclusion

Cerebral palsy (commonly known as CP) is a neurological condition that affects body mobility and coordination. Your entire life changes when you learn that your child has cerebral palsy. However, there is no cure for cerebral palsy, but there are some treatments that can help your child have a better life.

Being a parent is already a significant responsibility, so putting in an additional effort is just what your child needs in this situation. Be optimistic and understand what lifestyle adjustments will benefit you. Never forget that the best way to overcome adversity is to be profoundly grateful and embrace everything that comes your way.

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