Cerebral palsy refers to a collection of neurological disorders that impact muscle coordination and body movement. It stems from brain abnormalities linked to muscle control. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), rare cases of cerebral palsy are caused by a brain infection like bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis. But in most cases, cerebral palsy is apparent early in life. Approximately one in 323 children in the United States suffers from the condition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This makes cerebral palsy the most common motor disability in childhood.
Symptoms for Cerebral palsy
Symptoms vary, but typically include a lack of muscle coordination during voluntary movements, stiff or tight muscles, exaggerated reflexes and walking with an abnormal gait. This may look like crouching, dragging one foot or leg, walking on toes, or “scissored” walking. Cerebral palsy is not a condition that grows worse over time, but there is currently no cure. Instead, treatment options are geared toward improving quality of life.
According to Boston Children’s Hospital, common treatments include medications to reduce muscle spasms and manage seizures, as well as orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery. Wheelchairs, walkers, seating and positioning aids, and orthotics like braces and splints can also improve mobility. Speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy are also common approaches. Many people with the condition use assisting speech devices to help communicate better with others.
According to the CDC, developmental screenings are performed during infant well-child checkups to identify any motor or movement delays. These “well visits” are typically performed at nine months, 18 months, and 24 to 30 months. Some of these delays may be apparent at nine months and 18 months. The CDC reports that most movement delays are identifiable by 30 months. Parents who are concerned about their child meeting movement milestones should reach out to their pediatricians to be evaluated and learn about CP services.
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