March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness month, which gives us the opportunity to both celebrate and educate others about cerebral palsy (CP). We want to answer your questions about cerebral palsy because the more you know, the more you are able to inform others and increase awareness! Here are the answers to the top 5 questions I am asked about cerebral palsy:
1. What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is a neurological condition that affects body movement. “Cerebral” refers to the brain and “palsy” refers to the impairment of motor function.
2. What causes Cerebral Palsy?
A lot of people want to know if cerebral palsy is genetic or hereditary. Cerebral palsy is not a hereditary condition and genetics do not directly cause cerebral palsy, but both can be factors that increase the likelihood of cerebral palsy occurring.
Cerebral palsy is a result of abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain before, during or after birth. To learn more about genetic and hereditary influences and common causes of cerebral palsy, check out cerebralpalsy.org and the CDC.
3. What are some challenges someone with cerebral palsy will face?
The brain helps control our motor functions and an injury to the brain can cause weakness, lack of coordination and abnormal muscle tone. Someone with cerebral palsy might have difficulty with their balance and coordination, affecting their ability to navigate their environment and function independently in daily tasks. Children with cerebral palsy frequently have developmental delays and are slow in reaching milestones such as rolling, sitting, crawling and walking.
4. What are the treatment options for cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy differs in type and severity, which means it can present differently from one person to another. It is important to develop an individualized plan to work on the specific challenges that are limiting function and quality of life for each person.
Occupational therapy may focus on improving upper body function, posture and coordination to participate in day-to-day activities such as dressing and eating. Physical therapy might focus on increasing balance and walking with adaptive devices and orthotics. Speech and language pathology can address different ways of communicating and swallowing impairments.
There are also a variety of new treatment modalities, surgeries and medications available to better meet each child’s needs. At the Neurological and Physical Abilitation Center (NAPA), we use intensive therapy and new treatment approaches such as robotic gait training, NeuroSuit, body weight support systems and Cuevas Medek Exercise to enhance our children’s progress in meeting their goals. If you are currently considering different treatment options for your child, consider joining this NAPA parent group to connect with other parents of children with disabilities and hear more about their experiences.
5. What can I do to spread awareness during CP awareness month?
Share what you have learned with others, including these additional cerebral palsy awareness facts and statistics:
- Cerebral palsy is one of the most common childhood disorders and the most common motor disability in childhood
- Globally over 17 million people have cerebral palsy
- Cerebral palsy is a lifelong disability; it is not progressive but may look different over time
- Children with cerebral palsy are likely to have other impairments in addition to motor disability
- The lifetime care costs of a child with cerebral palsy exceeds $1 million
To learn more about living with cerebral palsy, read Cody’s story. To access new research check out the cerebral palsy research network.
About the Author
Allyson Bates is an occupational therapist that works with children with cerebral palsy and other diagnoses to promote independence and enjoyment in meaningful daily activities. She has worked at the Neurological and Physical Abilitation Center (NAPA) for over three years and is passionate about sharing knowledge and research to increase awareness about the kids and families she works with.