I the coming months we want to tell you about the different disabilities we meet in the children we support. Today, the 25th of March, is International Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day so of course our first disability post is about Cerebral Palsy.
Globally, one to 2 people in every 100 have cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy (CP) comes from brain damage, impacting a person’s muscles and their ability to move and balance. It does not get worse over time.
Signs and Symptoms: (There is wide variation in the number, type and severity of signs and symptoms people experience)
• Usually occurs before, during, soon after birth
• Impacts all limbs (quadriplegia), one arm and one leg (hemiplegia), or just the legs (diplegia)
• Stiff muscles causing their hands, arms, legs or feet to seem stuck in a position they cannot change and have uncontrollable movements
• Muscles around the mouth may be impacted causing difficult or absent speech
• Child may not hold their head up (floppy neck), sit up, crawl, or walk at the time when other children typically do or appear unbalanced. • Some are unable to walk but more with CP can walk than those who cannot
• Half with CP can learn like any other child while others have learning challenges
• Some may have other disorders like epilepsy, hearing or vision impairments, autism, etc.
Possible Causes and Risk Factors:• Damage to certain parts of the brain before birth, during birth, or during the first years of a child’s life, while the brain is still developing.
• Loss of oxygen to the infant immediately before or during birth often indicated by lack of crying connected to long labor.
• Exposure to infectious diseases that impact the brain before birth or in a very young child like malaria, measles, meningitis, etc., jaundice, hydrocephalus, heart problems, bleeding in the brain, or sickle cell disease• Accidents that cause injury to the brain
• There is no medication or surgery that can cure CP
• As young as possible, receive professional physical, speech and/ or therapy services and see them often to improve their abilities
• As young as possible, receive professional physical, speech and/ or therapy services, some of which family and community members can learn to do at home
• For people with CP who are unable or have difficulty walking, ensure they are not just in one position, soiled clothes are changed often, and kept clean to avoid infections or other problems
• Children whose ability to learn is impacted, should have a teacher with specialized training
• Daily exercise through play and interaction with family and community members will help with mobility and emotional health
• Strengthen muscles and bones with a healthy diet and if they have trouble swallowing, make the food soft
and feed them in small portions at a time
• Because many children look, move, or speak differently, it is important that family and community members do not make the child feel bad by staring or mocking them and to teach other children to do the same to improve the quality of this child’s life.