Across the United States, it is estimated that approximately 500,000 people, or one in every 323 children, are affected by cerebral palsy (CP), the most common form of which is hypertonic, or spastic, CP, characterized by extreme muscular tension and stiffness. A less-common form of CP is hypotonic cerebral palsy, which conversely is characterized by looseness in the muscular structure leading to “floppy” limbs, poor coordination, and delay in meeting developmental milestones.
Hypotonic CP is also characterized by an increase in the likelihood of the infant developing autism. Development of autism in addition to CP can result in the requirement of additional therapies and supportive measures to enhance the life of the child, and support the entire family. Last year, one U.S. family gained media attention after it was recommended that their daughter be assigned a service dog. With diagnoses of hypotonic CP and autism, the service dog would need individualized training to support her daily lifestyle. The media became involved in the family’s process when it was discovered that the price of training the service dog was around $14,000 – well outside the financial limits for most families. Such real-life examples highlight the prevalence of co-occurring hypotonic CP and autism, and how these conditions affect the entire family.
What Research Shows about Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy and Autism
According to research conducted by the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM), the prevalence of co-occurring hypotonic CP and autism was nearly 19 percent higher than in children with hypertonic, or non-spastic, CP. Overall, nearly seven percent of children diagnosed with CP are co-diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The high prevalence of CP and intellectual disabilities like autism are increasingly drawing attention to the significant cost of healthcare, therapies, and overall daily living for families affected by CP. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), medical costs alone for children with a co-diagnosis of CP and an intellectual disability are more than 25% higher than for children with no diagnosis.
One of the unfortunate realities concerning CP is the fact that this life-altering condition often results from an injury in the womb, during childbirth, or shortly after childbirth. Injuries caused by negligence or recklessness on the part of healthcare providers are a significant contributor to the prevalence of CP. For the parents and family of an infant or child diagnosed with hypotonic cerebral palsy, there are always questions about how to get proper support, how their finances will be affected, and what action they can take if their child suffered from medical negligence. These questions and concerns deserve real answers.