Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, a integrative pediatric neurologist, has said, "With tremendous burdens often come enormous gifts. The trick is to identify the gifts, and glory in them." So it is with cerebral palsy.
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, a integrative pediatric neurologist, has said, "With tremendous burdens often come enormous gifts. The trick is to identify the gifts, and glory in them." So it is with cerebral palsy. The burdens are great, but the gifts can be even greater. By taking advantage of the treatments available, as well as through prayer and grace, a person with cerebral palsy can thrive in spite of the challenges.
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affects movement, muscle tone and motor skills. It often results from brain trauma that occurs during pregnancy or birth. It may also result from trauma that occurs during the early years of a child's life. In many cases, it is preventable. Depending on the area of the brain affected, cerebral palsy may also cause other health conditions such as mental retardation or vision impairment.
The type of cerebral palsy and the severity of damage can affect how a child develops and can affect his level of development. Spastic cerebral palsy affects movement and causes muscle stiffness. Athetoid is a form of cerebral palsy that causes involuntary and uncontrollable movement. Ataxic cerebral palsy affects balance and depth perception. Cerebral palsy is divided into three subtypes, according to the parts of the body affected. Diplegia primarily affects the legs and is most common in premature infants. Hemiplegia typically affects one side of the body. It occurs in traumatic brain injuries or strokes. Quadriplegia affects all limbs and most often occurs when the child's oxygen supply has been interrupted.
Children afflicted by cerebral palsy have varying degrees of physical disability ranging from mild to severe. It depends on the area of the brain that has been affected and the severity of the damage. Cerebral palsy primarily affects a child's motor skills and cognitive abilities, however it can cause other issues as well. Muscle tightness and involuntary movement hinders walking make it difficult to move and walk. Balance is also affected. The child developing from infancy to preschool age may experience difficulty holding his head up, reaching for items, crawling, sitting, standing and walking. In a mild case of cerebral palsy, a child may simply appear awkward and clumsy. However, in severe cases, the child may never be able to walk or run, and may require constant care.
Children with cerebral palsy may also suffer from learning disabilities such as reading comprehension that may require tutoring. Some children may also have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Although some children with cerebral palsy have an average intellect, others may be mildly affected and some may suffer from mental retardation.
Conditions Affecting Development
There are other conditions resulting from cerebral palsy that can affect a child's development. Children may develop hearing impairment, vision loss or blindness, seizure disorders, dental problems, breathing problems, difficulty swallowing and speech impairment. A child with cerebral palsy may develop skin sores due to limited movement. The child may also have bladder and bowel incontinence due to motor impairment. The muscles used in eating may be impaired and could result in malnutrition and growth development. The skeletal system may not develop correctly and may lead to conditions such as muscle shortening in the limbs and curvature of the spine.
Treatment and Therapy
Although there is currently is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are several types of therapy that can improve the quality of life for children afflicted with the condition. Medication can treat conditions such as epileptic seizure. Speech therapy can assist with language development. The use of braces and physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen the muscles. Surgery may be able to help correct conditions such as curvature of the spine.