Finally learning the answers to your questions about your child’s condition can bring up a variety of emotions. However, the diagnosis is only the beginning of your journey. Now that you have confirmed a cerebral palsy diagnosis in your child, there are several things you need to know.
5 Things Parents Should Know About a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder that happens when a child’s brain was injured at or close to birth. While growing up, children with cerebral palsy won’t hit milestones as early as other children. They may have low Apgar scores—a test that checks a newborn’s appearance, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone and breathing rate—or they may not be able to roll over or look like they are having a seizure.
Watching your child experience those symptoms can be very distressing for parents. This is why a cerebral palsy diagnosis can bring forth a sense of relief, even if that relief is tinged with concern for your child’s future. Here’s what all parents should know if their child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
1. A Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis Is Not Your Fault
Many parents blame themselves when their child receives a cerebral palsy diagnosis. But, it is not your fault. Yes, cerebral palsy can often be prevented, but it’s a preventable condition on the part of the medical staff, not the parents.
2. Cerebral Palsy Affects a Child’s Mobility
Parents should be mainly prepared for the most common symptom—spasticity. Spasticity means that some of their muscles are contracted continuously, which makes their movements very stiff and it can be painful. However, this stiffness can be managed.
There are many forms of therapy that you can use early on to help loosen your child’s muscles and alleviate their discomfort.
3. Other Conditions Co-Occur With Cerebral Palsy
Due to the nature of cerebral palsy, children with it may be at a higher risk of other conditions like epilepsy, autism spectrum and anxiety, depression and ADHD.
Furthermore, while cerebral palsy is a mobility disorder. The fact that your child might walk a bit different than other children or need a wheelchair can lower their confidence, self-esteem and independence. So, while you are focusing on managing their difficulties moving, be mindful of the emotional effect their disorder can have on them.
4. Cerebral Palsy Can Be Misdiagnosed
The signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy can differ from person to person, which can lead to a misdiagnosis. That is why it’s essential for you to get a second opinion for your child’s diagnosis.
One reason why cerebral palsy can be misdiagnosed as something else has to do with a child’s spastic and uncontrollable motions. These movements, which happen to children with cerebral palsy, can look a lot like a seizure.
It’s difficult for health care providers to determine whether it was a seizure or movement disorder, because, preverbal or nonverbal children can’t explain to you or them what they are experiencing when these moments happen. This can cause them to give your child a seizure disorder diagnosis.
Another possible disorder that can be confused with cerebral palsy is dopa-responsive dystonia (DRD). The symptoms of DRD are very similar to those of dystonic cerebral palsy. However, the symptoms of DRD will get worse over time because it is a progressive disease. But, once a child with DRD receives dopamine therapy, their symptoms may go away completely.
5. Cerebral Palsy Is Manageable
While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, the condition is manageable. Depending on your child’s specific situation they may work with many different specialists:
- Pediatric neurologist
- Orthopedic surgeon
- Physical therapist
- Occupational therapist
- Speech-language pathologist
- Developmental therapist
- Mental health specialist
- Recreation therapist
- Social worker
- Special education teacher
In addition to the treatments and therapies those specialists may recommend, there are other activities you and your child can do to help them manage their symptoms and improve their mobility such as horseback riding, art therapy and yoga.
Legal Compensation May Be an Option
If your child’s diagnosis was the results of medical negligence, you might have a case for medical malpractice. Consult an attorney experienced in cerebral palsy and birth injury cases who can explain the legal options you may have. Contact the Birth Injury Justice Center to get a free case evaluation.