Cerebral Palsy

Katherine Dillon
Child Psychology
Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a term used to describe disorders of movement that result from
injury to the brain. It is a problem of muscle coordination. The muscles themselves are not effected but the brain is unable to send the appropriate signals necessary to instruct the muscles when to contract or relax.
Cerebral Palsy can be caused by numerous problems occurring in the prenatal period, prematurity, labor and delivery complication in the newborn period due to genetic or chromosomal abnormality to the brain may not develop in the typical way. Some environmental factors such as drugs metabolic problems, and placental dysfunction may also lead to CP. Previously it was thought that most infants with cerebral palsy had brain injury because of difficulties during labor and delivery. Today only, a small portion of children who are later diagnosed to have Cp. had birth injuries or oxygen deprivation during delivery.
There are three types of Cerebral Palsy. Spastic Cp. is the most common among children. Children with Spasticity will have tight or sometimes rigid muscles and are unable to move included limbs well. The imbalance and increased muscle tone may be slight and may appear as clumsiness. However this imbalance can also appear very severe so that the child in unable to move voluntarily with good control.
Choreothetoid Cerebral Palsy is a term used when children have abrupt involuntary movements of the arm and legs. For people with this type of Cp. controlling the extremities to carry out activities is extremely difficult.
Then there is mixed Cp. in which a person suffers a mixture of spacitiy and choreathetoid movement.
Most Children with Cerebral Palsy can be diagnosed by the time they reach the age of eighteen months. Any predictions for an infant under 6 months are little better then guesses, and even for children younger then one it is difficult to predict the pattern of involvement. By the time the child is two years of age the physician can determine whether the child with Cp, has hemiplegia, dipelgia, or quadriplegia. It is worth saying that a child with Cerebral palsy does not stop doing activities once they have begun them. Such a loss of skills is called regression and that is not a characteristic of Cp. If regression occurs it is necessary to look for a different cause of the child\'s problem. In order for a child to be able to walk, some major events in motor control have to occur. A child must be able to hold his head up before he can sit on his own, and must be able to sit independently before he can walk on his own. It is generally assumed that if a child is not sitting up by himself by the age 4 or walking by age 8, he will never be an independent walker. But a child who starts to walk by age 3 will certainly continue to walk when he is 13 years old unless he has a disorder other then Cp.
The first questions usually asked by parents after they are told there child has cerebral palsy are What will my child be like? and Will he walk? When it comes to expectations and questions of what the future holds for a child with Cerebral Palsy, it is important to maintain a combination of optimism and realism. About one, half of all children with Cp. have seizures. A seizure is an abnormal message that may cause someone to loose control of his or her body. Children may take special medication to reduce their seizures. About one Fourth to one, half of kids with Cp. have some type of learning problem. It may be a learning disability or it may be more severe learning problem like mental retardation. Many children with Cp. may need ongoing therapy and devices such as wheelchair. Generally, 90% of children will live up to there 20\'s and beyond. However children with quadriplegia (affecting all 4 extremities) and severe mental retardation have a lower survival rate.
Services for the school age child may include continuing therapy, regular or special education, counseling, technical support, community integration opportunities, recreation and possible personal attendants. An essential factor seems to be a supportive family. People are extensively affected by cerebral palsy can still be highly functional and independent.