National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month
March is cerebral palsy (CP) awareness month. Did you know that 1 in 400 children are diagnosed with CP in the UK? Cerebral palsy is a brain injury that occurs before, during or after birth. It is a group of disorders that affect posture and movement, limiting activity and making it difficult for children to use their muscles properly as they grow. There are differences in the type and severity of CP and children may also have epilepsy, visual, learning, hearing and speech impairments.
What are the causes?
There are a variety of possible causes but in many cases the exact cause isn’t always established. Factors which can increase the risk of CP are:
- Multiple births
- Babies who are premature (especially lower than 28 weeks )or with low birth weight,
- Infection of the mother during pregnancy such as toxoplasmosis or rubella
- Infection of the baby after birth such as meningitis
- A severe, prolonged lack of oxygen during birth in around 1/10 cases
- Trauma after birth for example a near drowning
- Severe jaundice
- Mother using a very high amount of alcohol, drugs or smoking during pregnancy
- There has been recent evidence making a genetic link in some cases.
How can it be treated?
Cerebral Palsy can have a significant impact on a child and their family’s daily life, with mobility, personal care, learning, feeding and communication issues.
There is no cure but early intervention by therapies such as physiotherapy can significantly reduce its impact. Earlier this month a report was published from an all party parliamentary group enquiry. It highlighted the need for quicker diagnosis and easier early access to children’s Physiotherapy. Physio’s can offer a variety of treatment tools that allows undamaged parts of the brain to be retrained; a concept called neuroplasticity. I am Bobath trained, which is a way of assessing and treating children; Bobath therapists analyse how a child moves and use specific handling to help modify their pattern of movement and teach ‘normal ‘ development.
We train the parents and carers in handling and positioning a child with CP so they can carry on with therapy throughout the day, giving them opportunities for long term change. We advise about suitable equipment and walking aids and liaise with other therapists that may be involved in treatment such as speech and language and occupational therapists in order to ensure we are all working towards the same goals for the children and their families.
Early intervention is of paramount importance and will enable optimum functioning for the child as they grow.
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