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Health Information For Parents
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a problem that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills. It hinders the body’s ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way. It also can affect other body functions that involve motor skills and muscles, like breathing, bladder and bowel control, eating, and talking.
CP often is caused by brain damage that happens before or during a baby’s birth, or during the first 3-to-5 years of a child’s life. Brain damage also can lead to other issues, like sight, hearing, and learning problems.
The types of CP are:
There is no cure for CP, but a child’s quality of life can improve with:
Cerebral palsy does not get worse over time.
The cause of CP isn’t always known. But many cases happen when a child’s brain is still developing, such as before birth or in early infancy. This may be due to:
In rare cases, CP happens because something goes wrong during a child’s birth.
Premature babies (babies born early) have a higher chance of having CP than full-term babies. So do other low-birthweight babies and multiple births, such as twins and triplets.
Brain damage in infancy or early childhood also can lead to CP. For example, a baby or toddler might suffer damage from:
Babies who are born early or who have health problems that put them at risk for cerebral palsy are watched for signs of the condition. Doctors look for:
There is a range of physical and cognitive (the ability to learn and understand) disabilities when it comes to CP. Some kids have a lot of trouble with movement or learning, while others don’t. It depends on how much the brain was damaged. For example, the damage can be partial, affecting only the part of the brain that controls walking. Or it can affect a larger area, like the parts that control walking and talking.
Brain damage that causes CP also can affect other brain functions and lead to problems like:
Seizures, speech and communication problems, and learning problems are more common among kids with CP. Many have problems that can need ongoing therapy and assistive devices like braces or wheelchairs.
There’s no cure for cerebral palsy. But resources and therapies can help kids grow and develop to their greatest potential.
As soon as CP is diagnosed, a child can begin therapy for movement and other areas that need help, such as learning, speech, hearing, and social and emotional development.
Medicine helps kids who have a lot of muscle pain and stiffness. They can take medicine by mouth or get it through a pump (the baclofen pump) placed under the skin.
Surgery can help fix dislocated hips and scoliosis (curved spine), which are common in kids with CP. Leg braces help with walking.
Kids can improve their bone health by eating diets high in calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. These nutrients help keep bones strong. Doctors, dietitians, and speech-language therapists can work with families to make sure kids get enough of the right nutrients and suggest changes to their diets or mealtime routines, if needed.
Kids with CP often need to see many different medical specialists for care. That team may include doctors and surgeons, nurses, therapists, psychologists, educators, and social workers.
Even if many medical specialists are needed, it’s still important to have a primary care doctor or a CP specialist. This doctor will take care of your child’s routine health care and also help you coordinate care with other doctors.
Taking care of a child with cerebral palsy can feel overwhelming at times. Not only do kids with CP need a lot of attention at home, they also need to go to many medical appointments and therapies. Don’t be afraid to say yes when someone asks, “Can I help?” Your family and friends really do want to be there for you.
To feel less alone and to connect with others who are facing the same challenges, find a local or online support group. You also can get information and support from CP organizations, such as:
Staying strong and healthy is not only good for you, but also for your child and your whole family.
Living with cerebral palsy is different for every child. To help your child move and learn as much as possible, work closely with your care team to develop a treatment plan. Then, as your child grows and his or her needs change, adjust the plan as necessary.
These guides can help as you plan for each stage of childhood and early adulthood:
Learn all about cerebral palsy (CP), one of the most common congenital disorders of childhood. Help your child or teen manage the condition, and find the help and services that kids with CP are entitled to.
Kids with spastic CP have stiff muscles in the upper part of the body, the lower part, or both.
Kids with ataxic CP have trouble with balance. They may walk with their legs farther apart than other kids. And they can have trouble knowing exactly where something is.
Dyskinetic CP, or athetoid CP, is a type of CP. Kids with dyskinetic CP have trouble controlling muscle movement.
If your child has cerebral palsy, there’s a lot to know. This checklist makes it easy to find out what programs and services may be available to you.
If you have a school-age child with cerebral palsy, there’s a lot to know. This checklist makes it easy to find out what programs and services may be available to you.
If your teen has cerebral palsy, there’s a lot to know. This checklist makes it easy to determine what programs and services might be needed as your teen nears adulthood.
Kids with cerebral palsy often have trouble eating. But with the right diet and feeding techniques, they can get the nutrients needed to thrive.
Are you raising a child with cerebral palsy? This guide offers advice, resources, and support so that you can help your child reach his or her full potential.
What teachers should know about cerebral palsy, and teaching strategies to help students with CP succeed in school.
Kids who have trouble walking have many options when it comes to getting around. View the slideshow below to learn more.
Kids with special needs have many options when it comes to supportive seats. View this slideshow to see what’s available.
Abusive head trauma is the leading cause of death in child abuse cases in the United States. It happens when someone shakes an infant.
Get advice from parents raising kids with cerebral palsy. Learn what works, what doesnât, and what helped these families the most.
Ira has cerebral palsy (CP), but it doesn’t interfere with his love of sports or his dream of being a broadcaster. Check out this video.
Shannon has cerebral palsy, which limits many abilities. But her wheelchair and her communication device give her the freedom to explore, and a voice to be heard.
Physical therapy helps people get back to full strength and movement – and manage pain – in key parts of the body after an illness or injury.
Lots of kids have special needs. Find out more in this article for kids.
Physical therapy uses exercises and other special treatments to help people move their bodies. Find out more in this article for kids.
Occupational therapy helps children overcome obstacles to be as independent as possible. Learn more about OT.
Cerebral palsy is one of the most common developmental disabilities in the United States. It affects a person’s ability to move and coordinate body movements.
Scoliosis makes a personâs spine curve from side to side. Large curves can cause health problems like pain or breathing trouble. Health care providers treat scoliosis with back braces or surgery when needed.
Occupational therapy can help improve kids’ cognitive, physical, and motor skills and build their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
Working with a certified speech-language pathologist can help a child with speech or language difficulties.
Doctors often recommend physical therapy for kids who have been injured or have movement problems from an illness, disease, or disability. Learn more about PT.
Wheelchairs are a way for some people to be independent, despite illnesses or injuries. Find out more in this article for kids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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