Children with Disabilities
Characteristics of Cerebral Palsy
Approximately half a million Americans have Cerebral Palsy (CP), and every year 8,000 newborns and almost 1,500 toddlers are diagnosed with CP. CP is a disability caused by damage to the areas of the brain responsible for our body's motor functions. Cerebral is defined as "related to the brain," while palsy can be translated to a "weakness or lack of muscle control." The brain injury that leads to CP usually occurs prior to birth. However, it may happen during delivery or shortly after birth. The three levels of CP include:
- Mild -- child may be uncoordinated.
- Moderate -- child may walk with a staggered gait and could require a leg brace or crutch.
- Severe -- may affect all aspects of the child's physical ability and could require wheelchair use or additional equipment to provide stability.
Children with CP sometimes have learning disabilities, ear and eye problems, or mental retardation. Typically, the more harm done to the brain, the higher the degree of CP. CP does not worsen with age, and most children born with CP have an average life expectancy.
The following are the three forms of CP:
- Spastic CP -- features excess muscle tone or stiffness. Mobility is tight in the extremities and/or the back. Children with spastic CP put their legs in an odd position while trying to walk, and their feet may turn in towards each other. Most people with CP have this kind.
- Athetoid CP -- also known as dyskinetic CP, it impacts all motor functions. Athetoid CP features sluggish, involuntary movements and low muscle development, causing difficulty for the child when attempting to sit up straight or walk.
- Mixed CP -- conglomeration of spastic and athetoid CP. A child can have high and low muscle tone, which simultaneously causes stiffness and uncontrollable movement.
Other words to define the various regions of the body affected by CP include:
- Diplegia -- only disables the legs.
- Hemiplegia -- disables one side of body (e.g., left arm, left leg)
- Quadriplegia -- disables all extremities and possibly the facial muscles and torso.
If your son or daughter experienced head trauma that resulted in a head injury and CP, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer or brain injury lawyer for more information.