10 Cerebral Palsy Facts Parents Need to Know
- Cerebral Palsy is a neuromuscular condition. It is caused by abnormal development or damage to the motor cortex of the developing brain. CP affects an individual's ability to control their muscles and maintain balance/posture.
- Cerebral Palsy is more common than you think. About 1 in every 323 children has CP; it is the most common childhood motor disability and is more prevalent in boys than girls. If you are struggling, look for a support group in your area or online; this can be a great resource for advice, suggestions, tips, and sharing your feelings.
- There are different types of CP. Most people (80%) with CP have what is called “spastic cerebral palsy.” They have increased muscle tone, which results in stiff muscles and makes movement awkward. It can affect mainly the legs (spastic diplegia), one side of the body (spastic hemiplegia), or all four limbs/trunk, and face (spastic quadriplegia). Of these, spastic quadriplegia is the most severe; most people cannot walk and may have intellectual disabilities and issues with vision, hearing, and speech.
- Over half of kids with CP can walk independently. This is great news: 50 - 60% of children are able to walk independently. About 10% of children with CP can walk using a hand-held mobility device, and with the use of cerebral palsy bracing, many children are mobile.
- Many children with CP have another condition. 40% of those with CP also have epilepsy and about 10% are on the autism spectrum, for example. About half will have some level of intellectual disability, which can range from very mild to severe.
- CP is usually diagnosed a year or two after birth. It can be hard to spot symptoms in infants, and if symptoms are mild, a child may not be diagnosed until they’re a few years old. What are some signs of CP? In a baby 3-6 months of age, they may feel floppy or stiff; their heads may fall back; when held, their back and neck may seem overextended; or their legs may get stiff and “scissor” when they are picked up.
In a baby older than 6 months, you may notice they don’t roll over, cannot bring their hands together; have trouble bringing their hands to their mouth, and keep one hand fisted while reaching for an object with the other. In babies who are older than 10 months, you may notice they drag one hand and leg when crawling or scoots on their bottom instead of crawling on hands and knees.
- We don’t know exactly what causes CP. The specific cause is unknown, but there are a few risk factors, including:
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Multiple births
- Infection in mother during pregnancy
- Birth complications
- Severe jaundice shortly after birth
- Trauma to the brain in utero
- Lack of oxygen or nutrients in the womb
- Cerebral Palsy is not a progressive or degenerative condition. Unlike conditions like Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), CP is not progressive. That is, it does not worsen as your child grows. In fact, some people see symptoms improve over time.
- People will challenge you to the blame game - do not play. This is not a “fact” necessarily, but you may encounter judgment about your child’s diagnosis. What did you do wrong? You may even judge and blame yourself. Don’t. It is not your fault. Put your energy towards positive action for your child (and yourself) and refuse to even play this game.
- With the right treatments and supports, your child can live a happy, healthy life. Yes, your child will have difficulties and challenges, some more severe than others. And yes, you will need to make accommodations and follow treatment protocols to ensure they stay healthy, especially if they have co-existing conditions. But you can also take steps to ensure they live their most active and full life. This means different things to different people, so it is important to understand your child’s condition - and their potential.
Cerebral palsy bracing can help maintain and improve mobility while providing support and structure. Contact Orthopedic Appliance Company to learn more and to see how we can help your child reach their goals.