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Diagnosing + Managing Cerebral Palsy in Young Children

March 24, 2015

By Noralba Martinez

Diagnosing + Managing Cerebral Palsy in Young Children | Ribbon image courtesy of Children's Neurobiological Solutions

Tomorrow is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. As an early intervention specialist and licensed professional counselor for an Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program in Texas, I have worked with many children with cerebral palsy. It’s very important to know that there is still light and hope that comes with this diagnosis. Part of that hope comes in early intervention, when you learn more about the diagnosis, how to accommodate any necessary changes, and start treatment. 

Adam poses for his school picture.

One story that I find particularly inspiring is about a boy named Adam. Adam was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was about two years old. His mother was told he would never walk, but thanks to the awesome team of people who work with and believe in him, he started walking when he was three and a half years old.

In Texas, where I live, a cerebral palsy diagnosis is considered an automatic medical qualifier for ECI services, which means that these children can receive free or reduced price treatments. Luckily, Adam has been able to receive therapy from ECI services thanks to this qualifier. Therapy has given Adam the opportunity to do things some people never thought he would. Check with your local ECI program to see if it’s the same in your area.

About the Disorder

  • Cerebral palsy (CP) is a diagnosis that is given when several permanent movement disorders appear. 
  • Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to or abnormal development of parts of the brain that can affect balance, movement, and posture, among other functions.

Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

  • Symptoms include: gross motor delays as a baby, stiff or floppy muscles, lack of coordination, oral movement difficulty, trouble speaking, sensory problems, difficulty walking, and tremors.
  • Severity and symptoms vary between each person with CP.
  • Symptoms are more noticeable in the first years of life, so be sure to schedule and attend all well-baby check-ups for regular screenings.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Early diagnosis of cerebral palsy is key to begin treatment and therapy to alleviate the severity of some symptoms. 
  • Early intervention therapy, coaching, and support are available for CP children and their families.

For Adam, treatment includes his mother and therapy team encouraging him daily to keep pushing himself. They make adaptations so he can do things independently and they look for assistive technology so he can speak and make his own requests. As you can see, Adam has made tremendous strides thanks to ECI services and treatment.

Now that you’ve taken the time to learn more about cerebral palsy, show your support tomorrow by wearing green to bring awareness to this disorder.

If you suspect your child may suffer from cerebral palsy, speak to your pediatrician right away. Early diagnosis is critical in treating this disease.

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