Understanding Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is an abnormality of motor function and abilities. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) describes cerebral palsy as a neurological disorder that is already apparent during the infant or early childhood stage of an individual. Its effects are permanent, but they do not progress over time.
As a neurological disease, its main problem will be in the muscles and nerves, the part of the brain where muscle control is the part deeply affected. Even though there are some children already born with the illness, it may not be evident or obvious on the early stages of the child’s life. But it becomes apparent at the age of two or when it reaches three years old.
The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, estimates about 10,000 babies each year that will develop cerebral palsy. The United States Cerebral Palsy estimates that about 800,000 people in the United States have cerebral palsy. About 25 percent of those who have cerebral palsy also have mental retardation.
There are different ways on how doctors are able to diagnose cerebral palsy even if the child is just a few months old. There are different symptoms that a baby with brain damage or problem may exhibit like lack of alertness, irritability, a high-pitched and abnormal cry, trembling in limbs and arms, seizures, body twitching and abnormal reflexes.
Muscle tone and the posture can also show signs if the child has cerebral palsy. If the child, for example, is favoring one side of the body, then it could be a sign. But not a too conclusive symptom, other symptoms would include gradual changes on the muscle tone, from being flaccid to being stiff.
As the child grows older, the signs become more and more evident. It can already be seen that his motor movements are slower than other children of the same age. They are significantly slower in reaching different developmental milestones like rolling over, crawling, sitting, and others.
Diagnosing cerebral palsy is not something that doctors could do overnight. Why? Because the child’s nervous system can get “organized” over time. There are times when the part of the brain which is undamaged, will take over the work of the damaged nerves of the brain. Although this would not be sufficient and make the child to completely recover, the development and the difference in motor skills are huge.
Eighteen months would be the most common age for most children to get cerebral palsy diagnosis. But this age is also the most difficult stage for a child to get diagnosed. Why? A child can have a brain injury and may scar the brain. Although the child, a few months from the serious traumatic incident, may show signs of cerebral palsy, the child may recover a year from the incident.
Doctors would use different medical technology to properly diagnose a child of cerebral palsy. There can be computed tomography or CT imaging which can determine if there are areas of the brain which are underdeveloped. An MRI or magnetic resonance imaging can also be used for the same purpose. There are also intelligence tests that can also help doctors in making a diagnosis. The mother’s pregnancy is also important in determining the abnormality.
To cope with the abnormality, there are many treatment options that an individual with cerebral palsy could undergo. There are also support groups where families of those who have children with cerebral palsy can draw strength from. Cerebral palsy does not only poses challenges to the affected individual but also with the people surrounding them like their family.
There are many management programs that would help individuals with cerebral palsy to develop their physical, mental, social and emotional growth. There are education programs, counselling and guidance programs and other activities, that cerebral palsy patients could still participate in.
It could be difficult, but this would help them experience life despite their disability.
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