Girl With Cerebral Palsy Takes 1st Unassisted Steps

photo of girl with cerebral palsy walking

A Texas mom is calling her young daughter her hero after the 6-year-old took her first steps without a walker or braces -- and video of the emotional moment has gone viral.

Lovely Johnson posted a video on Facebook of her daughter’s triumphant walk last Friday, where it’s already gotten over 59,000 shares. Her little girl is named Love and she has cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition that affects your movement, balance, and posture.

“She decided to get up and try walking without her walker and braces,” Johnson writes in the post. “My hero is not someone older than me it's my 6 year old princess.”

“I'm so happy for my baby and I hope this video inspire all the children out there with Cerebral palsy,” she writes in a follow-up.

“The happiness and pride the little girl shows while walking is wonderful to see,” says WebMD Senior Medical Director Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD. “Her story points to the importance of taking early action to maximize a child's ability to do everyday things and be independent. Children with CP often need a holistic approach to succeed with not only walking, talking, and eating, but also their academic, social, and emotional growth. Here we are seeing the benefits of a supportive family engaged with therapists and other medical professionals.”

CNN says Love was 4 when she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Prior to receiving a walker and wheelchair last year, her mom needed to move her around by holding her or putting her in a stroller, the news organization says.

She’s made big strides since then. In May, her mom posted a video of her walking down a flight of stairs while holding the guardrail and wearing leg braces. If you have a young child with CP who uses mobility aids, don’t let them attempt something similar unless their health care team says they’re ready for it. Treatment, emotional support, and supervision are musts in order to make safe progress.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

It’s a group of disorders that affect the brain and muscles. It’s the most common physical disability for children in the U.S. It’s usually caused by brain damage that may happen in the womb, during birth, or sometimes following birth. Being born too early or having a low birthweight are just a couple of things that can raise the odds.

Only a doctor can diagnose CP. But one clue a young child may have it is a delay in hitting movement-related milestones like sitting, standing, and walking, the CDC says. (Before Love was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 4, her doctor thought she was just developing more slowly than usual, her family tells CNN.)

The symptoms of CP vary. If you have a mild form, you may just move a bit awkwardly. If you have severe CP, you may need equipment like a walker to get around, or you might not be able to walk at all.

Your symptoms also depend on the kind of cerebral palsy you have. There are four main types, and the most common one is called spastic CP. It makes your muscles stiff, which can make it harder for you to move normally.

Some people with CP also have other conditions, like an intellectual disability, seizures, or trouble seeing, hearing, or speaking.

Lots of people with cerebral palsy live well though, especially when they get treatment very early on in life.

If you have a child with CP, work closely with their health care team to come up with a tailored plan. Treatments include medicines, physical and occupational therapy, mobility devices, and surgery. Your child may also be eligible for special education and related services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, even if they haven’t been diagnosed with CP yet.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on October 11, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Arefa Cassoobhoy, senior medical director, WebMD.

Facebook: Lovely Johnson, Oct. 4, 2019.

CNN: “This 6-year-old girl with cerebral palsy just took her first steps on her own.”

CDC: “Cerebral Palsy (CP).”

American Association of Neurological Surgeons: “Spasticity.”

Cerebral Palsy Alliance: “How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect People?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Cerebral Palsy: Outlook / Prognosis.”

Johns Hopkins: “Cerebral Palsy.”

Up to Date: “Patient education: Cerebral palsy.”

University of North Carolina School of Medicine: “Cerebral Palsy in Children.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.