Help for parents

Being told that your child has Cerebral Palsy is devastating news – and quickly gives rise to all sorts of questions.

"How did this happen?" "Is this my fault?" "Does this mean my child is mentally handicapped?" "Will my child have to live life in a wheelchair?" "Will he be able to go to school?"

It's not your fault
In most cases, experts are unable to determine the precise cause of Cerebral Palsy. It is highly unlikely that anything you did, or did not do, during pregnancy had anything to do with it. Nor is Cerebral Palsy hereditary.

It can't be cured
Nevertheless it is important to accept that Cerebral Palsy will not get better as your child grows. Although correct treatment given early in life offers great benefits, nothing has yet been found to repair damage to the brain cells themselves. Good news is that the damage will not spread either – although the effects of the damage may increase as the child gets older. In other words, the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy become more apparent as the child grows older but it is not a progressive condition.

How do I know if my child has Cerebral Palsy?
For babies with no obvious risk factors, it is difficult to diagnose Cerebral Palsy in the first year of life. Warning signs that a child may be affected are abnormal muscle tone (either too floppy or too stiff), poorly coordinated movements and the persistence of infant reflexes beyond the age at which they are expected to disappear.

Delays in normal developmental milestones, such as reaching for toys by 4 months or sitting up by 7 months, may also be a sign. If you suspect there is something wrong with your child, you should take him or her to a paediatrician, developmental or neurological specialist for assessment. If symptoms are mild, the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy may not be possible until the child is a toddler.

Children known to be at risk, such as those born prematurely or with health problems, are usually monitored closely from birth by the doctor or specialist, so that any developmental delays or problems with muscle function can be identified.

It is not unusual for a diagnosis not to be given until the child’s motor development is nearly complete as doctors observe the child through the development stages of sitting, crawling and walking. There is currently no test before birth that will identify Cerebral Palsy.

Cerebral Palsy is often referred to as an “umbrella term” as it applies to a collection of conditions where there is primarily a disorder of voluntary movement and/or co-ordination. No two people will be affected by their Cerebral Palsy in the same way and it is important to ensure the focus of treatments and therapies are tailored to individual needs.

What happens next?
Cerebral Palsy is one of the most common congenital disorders of childhood, affecting about one in 400 children born. You are not alone – and joining a parents' support group can be a huge help in coming to terms with the situation.

The KZN Cerebral Palsy Association offers skillful assessment to establish the level of impairment experienced by your child, and will draw up a treatment programme which may include physiotherapy, speech and/or occupational therapy.
Please call us on 031 700 3956 to make an appointment

Parents have an essential role to play in the programme, and you will be shown special muscle-strengthening exercises and other activities your child can do at home to help them develop their greatest potential.

We also offer advice regarding the best way forward for your child:

cerebral Palsied child

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