Cerebral palsy, or CP, is among the most commonly occurring forms of birth injury. Typically, a child with cerebral palsy receives a diagnosis before reaching their teenage years. As a parent, it can be distressing to learn that your child has this disorder.
You likely have many questions running through your mind. One of the most common ones is this: does cerebral palsy affect the brain? Let’s examine what cerebral palsy is, how it occurs, and resources you can use to help your child as they mature.
Cerebral Palsy Is a Disorder of the Brain
Cerebral palsy definitely affects the brain, but not necessarily in the way you might think.
“Cerebral” refers to the brain, and “palsy” means paralysis, so the name means that your child’s brain function is paralyzed in some way. According to the most recent estimates from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, approximately 1 of every 345 children in the US has CP, with a worldwide estimate of 17 million people with the disorder.
CP is more common in children who are preterm or have a low birth weight. Children with cerebral palsy frequently have co-occurring medical conditions, such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, and behavior issues. Up to 50% will have diminished intellectual capabilities in conjunction with movement problems.
Motor Issues Resulting From Cerebral Palsy
Every child with CP has a motor disability. This means that their ability to move a certain part of the body is limited. The part of the brain that is affected by the disability determines what part of the body will have compromised motor function.
For instance, if the motor cortex is affected by the lack of oxygen, the child will have issues with arm or leg movement. Those who lost oxygen to Broca’s area may have issues with speech. These children may be able to comprehend language but have difficulty forming words and speaking.
Cerebral palsy can vary dramatically in terms of severity as well. Here are three of the most common forms:
- Spastic cerebral palsy: The vast majority (nearly 80%) of CP cases display this form, which includes stiff muscles that cause difficulties with walking and movement.
- Athetoid cerebral palsy: Children with this form of CP may have issues throughout their bodies, such as problems with speaking, swallowing, chewing, sitting, and walking. About 10-20% of children display these conditions.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy: Representing only 5% of CP cases, children with this form will experience challenges with both gross and fine motor skills, such as walking, writing, coordination, and balance.
Cerebral Palsy Doesn’t Always Affect Intelligence
Although CP affects the brain in potentially significant ways, most children only experience motor movement and not intelligence issues. Although as many as 50% of CP cases may have some association with intellectual challenges, your child can still learn and study as well as most children in their age group.
In some cases, the child’s cognitive function is unaffected, but their ability to communicate is decreased. This can make it seem as if they’re struggling intellectually, but a skilled speech therapist can often help the child strengthen their abilities and help them find alternative ways to interact and learn.
If your child has cerebral palsy, there is a chance it was caused by the negligence of a medical professional during a birth injury. If you have even the slightest suspicion that this might have been the case, a lawsuit can help to cover the cost of the care your child needs. Get in touch with the Snyder Law Group for a free case evaluation.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
When a case of CP is mild, it may take some time to determine that your child has the condition. Some common symptoms for you and your pediatrician to watch for include:
- Delays in development: Your child may have CP if they exhibit delays in turning over, sitting up, crawling, or walking.
- Neurological issues: If your child shows unusual eye movements, problems with their hearing or other senses, or has seizures, they could have CP. Your child may also display emotional or behavioral issues.
- Problems with speaking, eating, or swallowing: Your child may indicate they understand you but cannot control their mouth for speech. If a child shows problems with nursing, eating, swallowing, or chewing, they could have CP.
- Problems with moving and fine motor skills: Your child may have stiff muscles or jerk uncontrollably. They may not reach milestones for walking or developing hand-eye coordination.
The severity of each symptom will vary widely from one case to another.
Recognized Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Preventing cerebral palsy is often difficult because there are so many ways it can happen, before, during, and after delivery. Some common causes include:
- Failure to diagnose and treat jaundice
- Failure to respond to changes in the parent’s or child’s condition
- Improper or excessive use of forceps or vacuum extraction
- Not performing a C-section to alleviate fetal distress
- The child spends too long in the birth canal
- When medical staff fail to recognize and treat seizures after the child’s birth
- When the umbilical cord is prolapsed without treatment
All these situations result in insufficient oxygen to the brain, which is the ultimate cause of cerebral palsy. If you feel your doctor or other healthcare provider did not take appropriate action to prevent your child’s birth injury, you may benefit from speaking with one of our skilled attorneys during a free case evaluation to learn more.
Growing to Adulthood With Cerebral Palsy
As a parent, you are focused on ensuring your child has the best chance at success. With a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, you may think they will struggle with living an independent life as an adult. For some children with severe cases, that may be true. However, many children with CP grow to become capable of managing their own lives.
There are multiple financial, community, and therapeutic resources available to support families with children who have CP, as well as those children as they grow. Accessing this support can build their resilience, determination, and self-reliance. “Independent” will mean different things for each child, but there are some critical skills that you can begin developing when they are young.
Basic math skills such as counting, adding, and subtracting are the foundation for understanding how to handle personal finances. If your child has issues with communication, many apps or special devices can assist them in discussing money with others so transactions can be completed. Building these skills early on will be a key factor in their independence.
Independent Living Skills
Whether your child grows to live on their own, with a partner or roommate, or in a shared home, they should develop their skills for cleaning, cooking, and caring for their living space. As much as possible, involve them in these activities as they develop so they can learn what they can do independently and what may require assistance. Some individuals will be too physically or cognitively limited to live fully by themselves, but building the understanding of these skills fosters a sense of belonging in any home.
Building Social Skills
Although your child may have limited physical movement, it is crucial that they have the chance to interact with other children and adults outside of their family and medical providers. They can build social skills that allow them to understand how the world works and how they fit into it.
Financial and Informational Resources for Those With Cerebral Palsy
When your child has CP due to a birth injury, you can seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit against those responsible. These can be time-consuming but are essential to ensuring your family has the financial resources to care for your child’s needs. In addition to this option, there are a number of groups and agencies that provide assistance to those with cerebral palsy:
- Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CPF)
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association (CHASA)
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- The MORGAN Project
- UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF)
There are additional groups that can aid in finding therapists, medical equipment, information, and other resources to help you enrich your child’s life. Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income can be extremely beneficial. Both of you may qualify if you are required to leave your job to care for your child, and your offspring may be eligible to receive these payments for their entire life.
Resources for adults with cerebral palsy also exist and provide support for living with the condition and building an independent life.
Speak With a Birth Injury Lawyer at the Snyder Law Group Today
The Snyder Law Group, LLC, has worked with clients throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. Our experienced Baltimore birth injury attorneys understand the frustration that comes when a medical provider causes harm to your child but refuses to accept liability for their negligent or wrongful behavior.
Our talented and experienced lawyers will fight tenaciously to hold them accountable and bring them to justice. We build your case from the ground up, tailoring a strategy to secure the maximum compensation available in your circumstances. Our team has secured over $190 million in cases involving hospital or physician negligence.
We are ready to work for you. Contact us to schedule a free and confidential consultation to learn about your options when your child has suffered a birth injury.