Developmental Disabilities

Cerebral Palsy

 

Cerebral Palsy is a condition characterized by involuntary movement of the muscles of the arms, legs, face, neck, as well as spasticity.

This condition is usually caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, resulting in permanent brain damage.  There are also other causes of brain damage, such as car accidents, that result in conditions resembling cerebral palsy.  The damage usually occurs during the  pregnancy, immediately before birth, or during birth.  Not all the symptoms may show until the child is about 18 months of age, after which time this condition is nonprogressive.  At times there may also be problems in speech, swallowing, vision, hearing, and/or perception.

Cerebral Palsy

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What is Cerebral Palsy?

The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements. The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later. The early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age. The most common are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia); stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity); walking with one foot or leg dragging; walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait; and muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy. A small number of children have cerebral palsy as the result of brain damage in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, or head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse.

Is there any treatment?

Cerebral palsy can’t be cured, but treatment will often improve a child's capabilities. Many children go on to enjoy near-normal adult lives if their disabilities are properly managed. In general, the earlier treatment begins the better chance children have of overcoming developmental disabilities or learning new ways to accomplish the tasks that challenge them. Treatment may include physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, drugs to control seizures, relax muscle spasms, and alleviate pain; surgery to correct anatomical abnormalities or release tight muscles; braces and other orthotic devices; wheelchairs and rolling walkers; and communication aids such as computers with attached voice synthesizers.

What is the prognosis?

Cerebral palsy doesn’t always cause profound disabilities. While one child with severe cerebral palsy might be unable to walk and need extensive, lifelong care, another with mild cerebral palsy might be only slightly awkward and require no special assistance. Supportive treatments, medications, and surgery can help many individuals improve their motor skills and ability to communicate with the world.

Things you can do: give child life experiences, take trips, foster playing in groups, encourage use of hands, find ways to help a child with CP participate in outdoor activities and make sure the child has electronic devices and pointers for participation

www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/cerebral_palsy/cerebral_palsy.htm

http://www.1800wheelchair.com/news/post/cerebral-palsy-information.aspx

From 1989 - 1996 Dr. Turben was Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at John Carroll University. In addition to teaching Teach Education and Early Childhood-Special Education courses, she supervised masters and post-baccalaureate programs that lead to the PreK, Kindergarten, and Early Education of Handicapped Children validations. She has done research concerning the effectiveness of home visits, the importance of neighborhoods as social structures and parent involvement in schools.
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