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How Cerebral Palsy Affects Daily Life

March 4, 2024 Pegalis Law Group

How Cerebral Palsy Affects Daily Life

As one of the most common childhood motor disabilities, cerebral palsy affects nearly one million people in the United States. Thousands of babies are born with the condition, with countless other school-aged kids diagnosed with it every year. It’s estimated one out of every 345 U.S. children has cerebral palsy. Often caused by brain damage before, during, or shortly after birth, cerebral palsy presents many unique challenges to those with the condition and their caregivers. In recognition of March being National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, Pegalis Law Group, LLC sheds light on how this condition affects the daily lives of those with cerebral palsy as well as their families.

What Is Cerebral Palsy? What Are Early Symptoms?

Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological conditions affecting a person’s motor skills, including posture and balance. “Cerebral” refers to the brain, while “palsy” refers to muscle weakness. Cerebral palsy usually affects a person’s movements, muscles, and mobility. Cerebral palsy symptoms vary but generally include the following (most commonly observed during infancy or the preschool years):

  • Muscle weakness (usually in one arm or leg)
  • Involuntary shaking or tremors
  • Delayed motor skill development (difficulty crawling, walking, or standing/walking on the toes)
  • Exaggerated muscle reflexes
  • Muscle tone variations (“too stiff” or “too floppy”)
  • Lack of muscle coordination (difficulty writing, tying shoelaces, buttoning buttons, etc.)
  • Delayed growth and development (smaller muscles and limbs, joint misalignment, spinal deformities, scoliosis, and osteoporosis are common with the condition)
  • Hearing loss, impaired vision, and speech/language disorders are also common

What Causes Cerebral Palsy? Is It Progressive or Curable?

Abnormal brain development in the womb or damage to the developing brain before, during, or after birth is often the cause of cerebral palsy. It’s not a contagious or hereditary condition. Many children are born with it due to a fetal injury, maternal infection or fever, or congenital brain malformation. However, some children develop cerebral palsy after birth due to a severe head injury or an infection, such as meningitis. In many cases, the specific cause of cerebral palsy is unknown. Cerebral palsy is not curable, meaning children diagnosed with it will have it into adulthood. It’s not usually a progressive condition, although its symptoms may change within a person’s lifetime.

How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect Mobility?

At least one out of every three children with cerebral palsy will have difficulty walking. Mobility is generally a life-long concern for those with cerebral palsy due to their lack of muscle coordination, abnormal muscle tone, and inability to control their motor functions. Early intervention and treatment are important to ensure your child moves as comfortably and easily as possible. Many can walk using orthotic devices and assistive equipment, such as walkers or canes, while others may need wheelchairs.

How Else Can Cerebral Palsy Affect Daily Living?

At least one out of every five people with cerebral palsy has an intellectual disability, though it can range from mild to severe. Inclusion in school and social activities is essential for their learning, growth, and development. Teaching the child how to be independent early in life can help them develop the confidence and skills they’ll need as they transition into their teenage and adult years.

Individuals with cerebral palsy may also have difficulty breathing, swallowing, eating, drinking, sleeping, and controlling their bladder and bowel movements, presenting several challenges to daily living. Pain is common due to the associated conditions often present, including spinal and hip abnormalities. Chronic pain can cause behavioral and social issues, as the individual avoids certain day-to-day tasks but may be alleviated through medicines. Many people with cerebral palsy also experience signs of premature aging by the time they reach their forties due to the extra strain on their bodies.

Diagnosing & Supporting Individuals With Cerebral Palsy

Whether you or someone you love has cerebral palsy, National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month is an excellent time to learn more about the condition and offer support. Early cerebral palsy diagnosis is essential for the child’s well-being. Schedule a developmental screening with your family doctor if you have concerns about your child’s growth, mobility, or development. Once a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, they may benefit from treatment and intervention. Depending on the severity of symptoms, a customized treatment plan may include braces, surgery, or medicine, as well as physical, occupational, recreational, or speech therapy.

Representing Birth Injury Clients for 50+ Years

A New York-based personal injury and medical malpractice law firm, Pegalis Law Group, LLC has represented clients affected by cerebral palsy and other conditions related to birth injuries during the past 50+ years. Receive additional insights about this and other healthcare concerns by visiting our website and following us on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn this year.