Cerebral palsy symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and coping electricity flow diagram

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While prematurity doesn’t cause cerebral palsy, it’s often associated with the condition since premature babies are typically at risk for many of the problems that do cause it. Most experts now believe that very few cases of cerebral palsy are actually caused by a lack of oxygen during labor and delivery. Diagnosis

The diagnosis of cerebral palsy is usually made when a parent or pediatrician notices that a child isn’t meeting his or her physical and/or behavioral developmental milestones. Your pediatrician may also notice during a physical exam that your child has problems with his or her muscle tone or reflexes.

In addition to a physical exam, tests that are sometimes helpful when evaluating a child for cerebral palsy include a computerized tomography (CT) scan and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the child’s brain. Other tests may also be done if a genetic, metabolic, or infectious cause of cerebral palsy is suspected. Treatment

In addition to therapy, children with moderate or severe cerebral palsy might need assistive devices to get around, such as orthotics, a walker, or a wheelchair. Other types of assistive technology can also help kids with severe cerebral palsy communicate and perform daily tasks, such as high-tech communication devices. Coping

If you’re the parent of a child who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it will take some time to adjust to the diagnosis. This is perfectly normal. Acceptance of the diagnosis, helping your child set goals, minimizing stress, keeping a positive attitude, educating yourself about cerebral palsy, and being an advocate for your child are all healthy ways of coping.

If you’re an adult with cerebral palsy, there are many strategies to help you live life to the fullest. Technology has come a long way and it can increase your independence and social network. Ask for help from friends and family if you need it. Consider joining a support group if you need to talk to others who understand what you’re going through. No matter the degree of your symptoms, good coping skills are essential to living well. Caregiving

Caring for a child with cerebral palsy comes with its own set of challenges. Not only does your child have movement difficulties, but he or she may have other related conditions as well, such as epilepsy, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or pain. All of these issues can contribute to behavioral problems and difficulty with peers. It’s important to implement strategies to help your child succeed at school, at home, and in life, as well as to start planning for your child’s future as an adult. Thankfully, there are bountiful resources to help you navigate each stage of life as it comes along.

If you’re concerned that your child has cerebral palsy, be sure to talk to your pediatrician. If your child is under the age of 3 years, you can also call the early childhood system in your state to request a free evaluation to see if he or she qualifies for services such as speech, physical, and/or occupational therapy. You don’t need a diagnosis or your doctor’s referral to do this. If your child is over the age of 3 years, you can call your local public elementary school to request the same thing. Early intervention is key to helping your child learn skills and work through challenges, and it can help increase his or her future success.

Christensen D, Van Naarden Braun K, Doernberg NS, et al. Prevalence of Cerebral Palsy, Co-occurring Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Motor Functioning – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, USA, 2008. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. 2014;56(1):59-65. doi:10.1111/dmcn.12268.