Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term covering a group of conditions which impact on coordination and movement. The result of an issue with the brain that can develop in the womb or during/soon after birth, CP is a lifelong condition.
CP is often not diagnosed until a child with the condition reaches the age of two or three years as the symptoms are not usually immediately obvious after the child is born. Children with CP often do not reach milestones of typical development; for instance, the child may not be able to sit unsupported by the age of eight months or may not walk unassisted by the age of 18 months. Other symptoms include uncontrolled, fidgety or clumsy movements along with weak limbs that may be too floppy or too stiff.
Diagnosis of CP can involve a number of different tests, observations and assessments. A specialist will carry out a physical examination and will also ask if the mother has any problems during the pregnancy or birth. Cranial ultrasound scans, MRI scans and/or CT scans may also be carried out. Other tests may include an EEG (electroencephalogram), an EMG (electromyogram) and/or blood tests.
The news that a child has CP can be, quite understandably, upsetting and frightening to the parents. While this is perfectly natural, it is crucial to overcome these feelings as soon as is possible as the parents' outlook on the child's condition will play an important role in how the child grows up with CP. While CP can cause many issues, it is important to understand that many people with CP can go on to lead long, fulfilling lives with the right support.
There is plenty of support out there for parents who have a child that has been diagnosed with CP. The main CP charity in England and Wales is Scope which, established since 1952, offers a wealth of emotional support and practical information as well as spearheading numerous campaigns that raise both awareness and funds. There are also plenty of support groups to be found on social media, particularly Facebook.
The symptoms of CP vary widely in incidence and severity, with the condition affecting different people in different ways; this makes it difficult to predict the outlook for any individual child. In general, most children with CP live well into adult life and, though the symptoms may preclude total independence, this is certainly not the case for all people with the condition. Some children with CP may have additional educational needs but the majority are entirely capable of attending mainstream school.
CP can cause problems with speaking and, in these cases, speech therapy is recommended. As well as helping children to communicate more clearly, such therapy also helps to improve the coordination of muscles in the head, throat neck and face. For those children whose speech is severely affected by CP, a range of communication devices are available.
Caring for a child with CP may incur additional financial costs that your income cannot support. There are a number of grants and benefits that can help including Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Carer's Allowance, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support and more. Further information on these forms of financial support and eligibility criteria can be found on the Scope website.
Wearing made to measure SDO® (Sensory Dynamic Orthosis) from Jobskin® can help children with CP. The range includes SDO® suits that aid in supporting the torso and specialist socks that assist with walking. Find out more about these garments on our website and do not hesitate to contact our dedicated clinical team for further advice and information.