Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that affects movement and muscle coordination, which means it can make it difficult for someone afflicted with this condition to walk, talk and take care of themselves.
CP is caused by damage to a child’s developing brain, typically occurring before or during birth – and it affects one in every 345 children in the United States.
Several factors can contribute to the development of cerebral palsy
Sometimes the cause of CP is unknown, but more often it can be attributed to things like:
- Prenatal causes: Infections during pregnancy, such as German measles, toxoplasmosis or cytomegalovirus (CMV), can increase the risk of cerebral palsy. Other factors include maternal health issues, exposure to toxins or drugs and genetic abnormalities. In some cases, CP may not be preventable, but others could be avoided through appropriate genetic counseling before and during pregnancy.
- Perinatal causes: Complications during labor and delivery can lead to cerebral palsy. These include premature birth, low birth weight, insufficient oxygen supply to the baby’s brain (asphyxia) and trauma to the baby during delivery.
- Postnatal causes: Brain injuries in early childhood, such as head trauma and infections like meningitis or encephalitis can result in cerebral palsy. In some cases, accidents or infections may be contracted during or just after delivery.
Treatment for cerebral palsy aims to improve the individual’s mobility, independence, and quality of life – but treatments are a life-long issue and expensive. A child with CP may need:
- Physical therapy: Physical therapists work on improving muscle strength, range of motion, coordination and balance.
- Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists focus on enhancing daily living skills, fine motor control and independence.
- Speech and language therapy: Speech-language pathologists help individuals with cerebral palsy improve their communication skills, including speech and non-verbal communication methods.
- Medications: Medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms associated with cerebral palsy, such as muscle spasticity, seizures or pain.
- Assistive devices: Depending on the child’s needs, assistive devices such as wheelchairs, braces and walkers may be necessary. Electronic devices may also be required to aid communication.
Ultimately, a diagnosis of cerebral palsy can turn what should be a joyful event into a reality that understandably causes a lot of distress and anxiety about the future. If you believe your child’s cerebral palsy was the result of a medical mistake, seeking legal guidance is wise.