Cerebral palsy is one of those disorders where we still don’t know exactly how it happens and there is no known cure. It can occur in pregnancy, during birth, or even in the first few months and sometimes even years of life. It is caused by abnormal development somewhere along the way or damage to the part of the brain that controls movement, balance, and posture, and although it occurs in 2.1 out of every 1000 live births there are many different types, signs, symptoms, and facets to the disorder.
Sometimes it isn’t evident that a child has cerebral palsy until they get a little older and aren’t meeting milestones like other babies their age. Babies may not be able to roll over, crawl, sit up unassisted or learn to walk. In other cases, it is evident right away that something is different with a baby with the disorder. They may have poor coordination, stiff or weak muscles, and tremors. They may also have seizures and later in life problems with thinking and/or reasoning. While the symptoms may be more noticeable over time (when the baby gets older for example) the disorder doesn’t get worse over time, so parents and therapists can then address what to do for each individual case.
While there is no known cure (yet) for cerebral palsy, there are many supportive treatments like occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy, medications that help to calm muscles, and surgery to lengthen muscles or to sever overly active nerves may give the patient more comfort and relaxation within their body.
Parents will usually seek the help of many medical practitioners and therapists and even have respite workers coming in to be with their child while they do the multitude of other things that need to be done on a daily basis. There are special schools that can accommodate those in wheelchairs and with cerebral palsy and other disorders, and of course, a never-ending stream of doctor’s and specialist’s appointments to attend.
Having a child with cerebral palsy or any other disease or disorder can be extremely difficult, but when we gather the information we are less likely to fear what we don’t know. The next time we see a little guy or girl in a wheelchair or walker a nice smile in their direction is a lot better than gawking or whispering. They are getting out there and conquering their affliction and they need all the support they can get.
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