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Children's Health

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Caring for a Child With Cerebral Palsy

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Signs of Cerebral Palsy continued...

Early signs of cerebral palsy include:

  • Developmental delay: An infant with cerebral palsy may not learn to sit or walk or reach other developmental milestones at the appropriate age.
  • Abnormal muscle tone: The infant's body typically seems very stiff, though it may appear overly relaxed and floppy.
  • Unusual posture or body position

Very fidgety babies with excessive colic and sleep disorders may also be at risk, although in many cases these may be normal phases. Parents often know when they become abnormally persistent and part of the bigger picture and take this concern further by consulting their doctor.

Other signs may include:

  • Dragging one foot or favoring one arm -- features which show uneven muscle function
  • Lots of drooling or trouble sucking, swallowing, or talking
  • Tremors

If your child shows any of these signs, you should consult your child's doctor.

Risk Factors for Cerebral Palsy

Anyone can have a child with cerebral palsy, but certain conditions put your infant at higher risk:

  • Exposure to infection or toxins during pregnancy
  • Circulation problems in the mother during pregnancy
  • Incompatible rhesus blood factors (the + or - associated with blood type)
  • Low birth weight or prematurity
  • Multiple births -- for example giving birth to twins or triplets
  • Breech birth or other childbirth complications
  • Severe, untreated newbornjaundice

Treatment for Children with Cerebral Palsy

There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but early intervention can measurably improve your child's ability to manage the condition. Treatment options for children with cerebral palsy include:

  • Physical therapy to help improve strength, flexibility, and balance
  • Occupational therapy to help with fine motor and self-care skills
  • Speech therapy to help improve communication, and possibly feeding and swallowing
  • Hearing, vision, and other assistance devices
  • Orthotic devices to improve balance and mobility
  • Medication to prevent pain or seizures, or to relax muscles
  • Surgery to improve severe cases of deformity or spasticity
  • Counseling for behavior or adjustment issues

Social services can be invaluable in offering support for the child, family, and caregivers, and to offer respite when needed.

Visiting nurse services can help put together packages of care as required, and they can help parents access and coordinate services when needed.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating a child with cerebral palsy. Each individual will have different symptoms, abilities, and needs. Be proactive in making sure your child gets the help and support he or she needs. Whether symptoms are mild or severe, your child deserves support to reach his or her maximum potential.

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