Cerebral palsy is a chronic disability of the central nervous system characterized by abnormal control of movement and posture. The symptoms of cerebral palsy and their severity are variable. Children with cerebral palsy may have only minor difficulty with fine motor skills, such as grasping and manipulating items with their hands. Severe cerebral palsy could involve significant muscle problems in all four limbs, mental retardation, seizures, and difficulties with vision, speech, and hearing.
What are some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy?
Although the defect in brain function that causes cerebral palsy is not progressive, the symptoms often change over time. Most of the symptoms relate in some way to the abnormal control of muscles. cerebral palsy is categorized by the type of movement disturbance present. Spastic diplegia, for example, refers to tight muscles that have no voluntary control in both legs, while athetoid quadraparesis describes uncontrolled writhing movements and weakness in all four limbs. Cerebral palsy can also be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe.
Spastic, muscles can cause serious orthopedic problems, including curvature of the spine ( scoliosis ), hip dislocation, or contractures. A contracture is shortening of a muscle. Contractures may become permanent without some sort of intervention which can cause postural abnormalities in the affected limbs. Clenched fists and contracted feet are common in people with cerebral palsy. Spasticity in the thighs causes them to turn in and cross at the knees, resulting in an unusual method of walking known as scissors gait. Any of the joints in the limbs may be stiff due to spasticity of the muscles. Athetosis (writhing, involuntary movements of the hands) and dyskinesia (inability to make voluntary movements) often occur with spasticity but do not often occur alone.
Other symptoms of cerebral palsy may include:
- Intellectual disabilities/learning disabilities
- Behavioral disorders
- Seizure disorders
- Visual impairment
- Hearing loss
- Speech impairment
- Abnormal sensation and perception
What causes Cerebral Palsy?
Sometimes, cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage from lack of oxygen due to an event during labor or delivery. When this happens in full term babies, the newborn will have evidence of severe pH abnormality in the cord blood and neurologic abnormalities soon after birth. Frequently there will be signs of sudden oxygen deprivation seen on the fetal monitor, very low Apgar scores at birth, and involvement of other organs such as the kidneys within a few days. If you have reason to believe that a medical error in your care during pregnancy or birth may have caused your child’s cerebral palsy, it is important that you discuss this with a qualified attorney promptly.
The cause of many cerebral palsy cases remains unknown, but birth difficulties may be involved in some cases. Developmental problems before birth, usually unknown and generally undiagnosable, may also be responsible. Cerebral palsy may be caused by fetal stroke in the uterus before labor, fetal infection before birth, malformation of the brain originating at conception, genetic diseases, complications of prematurity or unknown causes.
What can I do if I think my child might have cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy cannot be cured, but many of the disabilities it causes can be managed through planning and timely care. Treatment for a child with cerebral palsy depends on the severity, nature, and location of the primary muscular symptoms, as well as any associated problems that might be present. Optimal care of a child with mild Cerebral Palsy may involve regular interaction with only a physical therapist and occupational therapist, whereas care for a more severely affected child may include visits to multiple medical specialists throughout life. With proper treatment and an effective plan, most people with cerebral palsy can lead productive, happy lives.
To find out who to speak to in your area, you can contact the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities by logging on to www.nichcy.org/states.htm. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has links to information for families (www.cdc.gov/ncbddd) as does Tools for Meeting Life’s Challenges (http://toolsmlc.org).
What will my child need?
About half of the people who have cerebral palsy will need to use braces, walkers, wheelchairs, and other assistive devices to help them get around. People with severe cerebral palsy might need special medical care, educational, social services, and other help throughout their lives from both their families and their communities. The average lifetime cost associated with cerebral palsy is in excess of $1 million per person. However, depending on the extent of the injury, it can be much, much higher.
Anyone who has been the victim of a birth trauma that has resulted in a cerebral palsy diagnosis, as the result of medical negligence, is eligible to recover medical, hospital, and other expenses to cover the care of the child. After you seek medical care, the next step is to have your case evaluated by an experienced law firm to begin filing a case to cover your child’s lifetime cost.