What are the Developmental Impacts of Cerebral Palsy?

While the physical signs and symptoms associated with cerebral palsy (CP) may be easy to identify, it can be more difficult to identify the developmental impacts of the disorder.  Developmental disorders often involve symptoms that may be confused with physical or learning disabilities.  In this post, we will address the question – “what are the developmental impacts of cerebral palsy?”

Read on to learn more about the different types of CP and how they impact development.  For more information about CP and birth injuries browse our website, or contact Brown & Brothers to speak with an attorney.

Different Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are four primary types of CP, each with its own set of associated symptoms and patterns.  These four types include:

  • Spastic: Spastic is the most common type of CP, comprising 70-80 percent of all cases. Spastic CP is caused by damage to the motor cortex of the brain, impacting voluntary movement.  Spastic CP often results in awkward or abnormal reflexes, tight joints or muscles, abnormal gait, and stiffness in one or more parts of the body.
  • Ataxic: Ataxic CP is caused by brain damage to the cerebellum. This damage results in difficulty with speaking, shakiness or tremors, widespread gait, and poor depth perception.
  • Athetoid: Athetoid CP is also called dyskinetic or non-spastic CP. Athetoid CP is caused by damage to the cerebellum and/or the basal ganglia.  This results in symptoms such as floppy limbs, poor posture, stiffness, and issues with feeding.
  • Mixed: Mixed cerebral palsy occurs when there is damage to multiple areas of the brain. In these cases, the individual may exhibit symptoms both spastic and non-spastic.

Determining what part of the brain has been damaged is an important step in preparing to treat and manage CP – not only the physical symptoms, but also any related conditions.

Impact of Cerebral Palsy on Developmental Milestones

Sometimes an illness or injury gives parents reason to be concerned that their child could develop CP.  In other cases, parents may not be aware that their child has CP until he or she misses milestones or exhibits signs of delayed growth or development.  It is important to know how cerebral palsy affects development, especially during the early years when growth and development are measured by “milestones”.

Based on the developmental milestones commonly used by doctors, here are some key warning signs that may indicate your child has CP or another developmental disorder:

  • 0-3 Months Old:
    • Poor reflexes
    • Lack of muscle control
    • Floppy or stiff body
    • Lack of sensitivity/response to sound or light
    • Difficulty moving eyes
    • Not smiling by three months old
  • 3-6 Months Old:
    • Poor muscle development
    • Lack of communication (no babbling or laughing)
    • No reaching for objects or handling them
    • No rolling over or sitting up
  • 6 Months to 1 Year Old:
    • Difficulty with gross or fine motor skills
    • Difficulty with oral motor skills
    • Poor coordination
    • Inability to grasp objects
    • Difficulty self-feeding or swallowing
    • Lack of familiarity
    • Favoring one side of the body
  • 1-2 Years Old:
    • Awkward muscle tone
    • Muscle spasms or stiff or jerky movements
    • Delayed physical, cognitive, social, or emotional development
    • No walking by one year old
    • Lack of interest in socialization and play
    • Underdeveloped vocabulary

Every child develops at his or her own pace.  Delays in development does not always mean that your child has a disorder like CP.  Any concerns you have about your child’s development should be discussed with his or her doctor.  There are tests that can be done to examine your child’s brain and review his or her movements to see if there are any abnormalities.

Managing the Developmental Impacts of Cerebral Palsy

If your child has been diagnosed with CP, you are likely concerned about how his or her development will impact the future.  Many people with CP require assistance with daily activities like personal care, meal preparation, and moving around.  The level of care your child will require as he or she grows older will depend on the type of CP, the severity, and the interventions implemented.

There is no “cure” for CP, but there are many options available to help manage symptoms and assist your child as he or she grows and develops.  As an infant, toddler, or young child, treatment options may include:

  • Therapy: There are multiple types of therapy that can benefit someone with CP. The most common are:
    • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy for CP may include specialized strength exercises, stretching and joint mobilization, balance practice, and endurance exercises.
    • Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy for CP may include exercises to help your child with communication, socialization, play, and learning.
    • Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy for CP may include exercises to help your child understand and manage his or her emotions and responses. Some children with CP develop destructive behaviors, including self-harm, and behavioral therapy can help prevent or manage these behaviors.
  • Medications: Medications prescribed to individuals with CP are designed to help manage symptoms and control pain. The most common medications for CP include muscle relaxers, anti-seizure medication, and anticholinergic medications.
  • Surgery: Depending on the type of CP your child has and related symptoms or disorders, he or she may need to have surgery. Individuals with CP may benefit from surgery to correct hearing or vision, install or manage a medication pump, or orthopedic surgery to control pain or improve movement.

There are many people who live with CP and go on to live full, independent lives.  The key to healthy development for someone with CP is recognizing and understanding the disorder and taking proper steps to manage symptoms and support the individual.

Cerebral Palsy and Your Legal Rights

If your child has CP, of course your primary concern is his or her physical and mental wellbeing.  It is also important to consider his or her legal rights.  If your child’s CP was caused by negligence, such as a birth injury, you may be entitled to compensation that could help cover medical and life care expenses.  Contact Brown & Brothers to learn more by completing our online form.

Sources:

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Cerebral Palsy and Occupational Therapy