Living with Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is a general term for many different conditions that can affect a child’s movement and coordination. It is caused by damage to the brain which can be the result of a premature or difficult birth, infection during pregnancy or abnormal brain development. It is thought that Cerebral Palsy can affect as many as 1 in 400 births in the UK.
A child with Cerebral Palsy may take longer to learn how to walk, talk or crawl. Don’t panic if your child is taking their time learning these but if it does concern you, talk to your GP.
Cerebral Palsy is noticeable within the first few years. Muscle stiffness on one side of the body, usually in the arm and hand, and seizures are common symptoms of spastic hemiplegia. Stiffness in the legs and difficulty walking are symptoms of spastic diplegia.
A child that struggles with depth perception and balance, (they may have difficulties tying shoelaces or writing, for example) or has involuntary shaking of the hands could be suffering with ataxic cerebral palsy. Involuntary body movements and having difficulty eating or talking are common symptoms of athetoid cerebral palsy.
If all the limbs are stiff but the neck muscles are weak, and the child has difficulty speaking, general learning difficulty and frequent seizures, your GP may test for spastic quadriplegia. This is the most severe type of Cerebral Palsy.
Cerebral Palsy is not a progressive condition so it will not get worse with age, but it can put a strain on the body and lead to problems in later life. With support from physiotherapists, occupational therapists and medicine, many symptoms can be alleviated or relieved.
There is much help available to sufferers of Cerebral Palsy. The NHS will provide help from speech therapists, physiotherapists, paediatricians, occupational therapists and more to ensure that sufferers live as normal and independent a life as possible. There is no cure for Cerebral Palsy and some cases are worse than others, but with help and support the outlook can be positive.