It is not uncommon for parents to welcome home their adorable, newborn baby and finding out a year later that their child has cerebral palsy. New parents are not to blame. Cerebral palsy is very difficult to diagnose until the infant is at least one year old. In some cases, cerebral palsy cannot be detected until ages three to five.
Cerebral palsy is a disorder that results from brain damage that could have occurred in an infant during or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy affects an individual’s muscle coordination and language development. Since cerebral palsy comes from brain damage, one cannot know if their child has the disorder right after birth, except in rare and severe cases. It is not until the brain begins to develop that cerebral palsy can be diagnosed.
The symptoms of cerebral palsy can be seen better from ages three to five, as the brain and nervous system develop. The most common early sign is that the child will have delayed milestones and development. These symptoms can be seen early on, with milestones such as controlling the head, rolling over, crawling, and walking. However, delayed milestones can be related to several different factors, not just as symptoms of cerebral palsy. Another early symptom is if an infant develops handedness before a year and a half. This development is significant because it can mean that the child has weak muscles on one side of the body, making them more reliant on the other side.
Some other symptoms of cerebral palsy are abnormal muscle tone and movement. Sometimes this symptom presents itself as stiff muscles and spastic movements or in looser, uncontrolled movements. Deformities of the skeletal structure might also be present; it is especially true of the affected side of the body and can result in shortened limbs or scoliosis.
Many individuals, but not all, with cerebral palsy can also have mental retardation and speech problems. This outcome is a result of the brain damage, as well as the lack of development of muscles used for speech. Hearing loss is also common and also affects the development of speech. Other serious symptoms of cerebral palsy include seizures and lack of control of muscles that affect swallowing, vision, and bowel and bladder control.
Symptoms of cerebral palsy will differ in each individual, and it can range from mild to severe in its symptoms, depending on the extent of the brain damage. It may be hard to spot from an early age, but it is essential that parents consult a physician immediately if they notice their child showing any of the symptoms, especially seizures or if they have not spoken any words before twelve months of age.
The earlier cerebral palsy can be detected in a child, the better. While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, early detection and treatment can improve the individual’s symptoms drastically. Early detection can also help families qualify for government assistance to get their child the medical attention they need.
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