Cerebral Palsy

What is it?

The term ‘Cerebral Palsy’ means ‘brain paralysis’ which can involve a set of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions, such as:
  • Movement
  • Learning
  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Thinking

There are several types of the disorder such as:
  • Spastic
  • Dyskinetic
  • Ataxic
  • Hypotonic
  • Mixed

Cerebral palsy is caused by injury or damage to the brain of the child whilst still in the womb or during the first two years of life when the brain is still being developed. Some people can obtain injury to the brain due to low levels of oxygen. In many cases the exact cause of the damage to the brain is never known.

Some of the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy cannot be recognized until the Childs’ body and Nervous System develops.

Early symptoms include:
  • Delayed milestones such as:
    • Controlling their own head movements
    • Being able to rollover
    • Reaching with one hand
    • Sitting without support
    • Being able to crawl
    • Being able to walk

  • The continuation of infantile movements that a child without Cerebral Palsy would develop after 3 to 6 months after birth.

  • Developing handedness, (being right-handed or left-handed), before age 18 months. Children without this disorder would not have a distinguishable handedness before 18 months i.e. reaching for an object with both hands instead of one. This indicates weakness or irregular muscle tone on one side.
Age when symptoms appear:

The symptoms are usually discovered before the age of 2 years but can appear from as little as 3 months old.
Long term prognosis:

The prognosis depends on the severity of the disorder. Some people with Cerebral Palsy can live on their own easily but others may require life-long medical care. It is not a progressive disorder so the symptoms cannot spread to other muscles. The affected person lives a normal life span but people with a severe case of Cerebral Palsy can have a condensed life span.

As people with cerebral palsy age, they may experience long-term effects of chronic physical damage, such as:
  • Increase in spasms
  • Increase in shortening of muscles
  • Joint problems
  • Tight muscles
  • Increase in back pain
  • Reduced energy levels

Conventional Cerebral Palsy treatment includes many practices like:
  • Remedial therapy
  • Medicine
  • Deep brain stimulation (a surgical treatment involving the implantation of a medical device called a brain pacemaker, which sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain.)

These treatments will be left ineffective however as the brain has been damaged and millions of neural pathways have been lost forever. These above treatments are not able to replenish the neuron count in the brain however…

There is hope in the near future of using stem cells to create the neuron cells that are lost due to this damage. If stem cells are used at a young age, while the brain is still developing, then the brain will be able to continue to grow as normal whilst the stem cells are constantly creating new neural pathway.
  • “Cerebral palsy is the most common form of childhood physical disability, affecting about 34,000 Australians.
  • In Australia, around 600 to 700 infants are born with CP each year.
  • In Australia, it is estimated that a child is born every 18 hours that has or will develop CP (that is one in every 400 babies). ”
Source: http://www.cerebralpalsyaustralia.com/index.php/site/learningcentre/thefacts

“most common developmental disability in the United States. More than 500,000 people in the United States have CP. Every year, almost 5,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with the condition.”
Source: http://kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/brain_nervous/story_cerebral_palsy.html#

World-wide more than 15 million people have Cerebral Palsy.
Preventing it:
  • Do not consume alcohol, cigarettes or illegal substances during pregnancy.
  • Folic acid is a vital vitamin for women who are pregnant. It can assist with preventing deformities of the baby’s brain and spine, (Neural tube defects a.k.a. NTD’s).
  • By contracting Rubella or German measles the mother can place her child in risk of being born with serious birth defects. Due to this it is important that you have a vaccination against your baby contracting these defects.
  • You must receive treatment for all infections or illnesses a.s.a.p. Also avoid exposure to harmful substances such as radiation and asbestos. As all of these factors can increase your baby’s chance of contracting Cerebral Palsy.
  • Eat healthy!
How care-givers can assist patients in making their lives as pleasant as possible:

The severity of the cerebral Palsy within the child will determine the amount of work needed in order to make the child’s life as pleasant as possible. The child may require a team of professionals to assist the child in becoming as independent and self reliant as possible.

Some of these professionals include:
  • physicians
  • therapists (physical, occupational, and speech)
  • psychologists
  • educators
  • nurses
  • special education teachers
  • social workers

These professionals will work together to address issues of:
  • social and emotional development
  • communication
  • education
  • nutrition
  • mobility
  • Occupational therapists will work with the child to maintain the maximum degree of self-care and functional independence possible.
  • Speech therapists can help through oral motor work to enhance sucking, eating, etc. This work will help communication, both through facial and verbal means, making speech as intelligible as possible. If lack of muscle control makes speech too difficult, speech therapists may help teach use sign language.
  • Physical therapists will work on strengthening muscle tone and creating an independence in movement.
How homes can be made suitable for sufferers:

Some houses in the more severe cases of Cerebral palsy may need to be extensively modified as the person may have a wheelchair. Some things that can be done to help create accessibility are:
  • Make sure that there is an accessible route to reach the entrance.
  • Easily accessible living areas such as the lounge and kitchen.
  • Usable doors (for those using wheelchairs).
  • Accessible route into and through the house (corridors are wide enough for a wheelchair to fit through, no furniture blocking the route).
  • Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations (low enough to reach whilst sitting in a wheelchair).
  • Reinforced walls for grab bars (support whilst walking).
  • Usable kitchens and bathrooms (counters are all reachable from a wheelchair).
Financial Support:

In order to qualify for financial assistance:
  • You must obtain a certificate from the doctor which declares that your child does have Cerebral Palsy.
  • Next you must contact Social Security to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
    • SSI provides a monthly income for people in order to assist with the in home care of the child. The amount given is based on household income.
  • New mothers may apply for Temporary Disability Insurance through their province or workplace.
    • This allows them to receive up to 60% of their salary to care for their child.
  • Medical Aid
    • Many people can apply for medical aid. The aid will cost a certain amount of money per month but it will cover any medical procedures needed or doctor’s appointments.
Public perception of Cerebral Palsy sufferers:

Due to their condition the Cerebral Palsy sufferers may not want to participate in group activities or they may feel excluded as their confidence would be low. Many people judge the sufferers and in the playground the child may not have any friends as children can be very judgmental. The sufferers may come across many barriers during life which can be formed from negative attitudes towards the disorder and a lack of support within the family and the community.