What Is Cerebral Palsy And How Does It Affect Children?

In the UK, cerebral palsy solicitors receive a large number of enquiries every year from parents looking for help for their child. Receiving a diagnosis of CP can be devastating for parents who, understandably, have concerns about how it will impact their child’s life.

In this article, we’re going to be explaining what cerebral palsy is, how it is caused and how it can affect children.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a number of disorders caused by damage or abnormal developments in the brain that connects to the muscles. Directly translated, “cerebral” refers to all things to do with the brain and “palsy” describes a weakness or lack of use of the muscles. Around 1 in 400 children are born with cerebral palsy in the UK every year.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is usually caused by either abnormal brain development before birth or damage to the developing brain due to third party involvement – for example medical intervention during the birthing process.

CP is usually diagnosed within the first few months of a child’s life, however, this is not always the case as some children will display little to no symptoms at an early stage. Diagnosis will normally be secured through a brain scan – either a CT scan, MRI scan or both – which creates an image of the brain and identifies abnormalities.

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How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect Children?

Symptoms of cerebral palsy cover a wide range and therefore the impact on a child’s life can vary to a large degree. In this section, we’re going to be explaining the different ways in which CP may affect your child’s life.

Mild Cerebral Palsy

When a child is born with mild cerebral palsy, they will often be able to live a reasonably normal life with some independence, however, in most cases, there will be one or more symptoms associated with their condition and these can include:

  • Mobility and posture issues – The child may suffer from poor posture and may not be able to walk without the use of a walking aid.
  • Vision – The child may suffer from progressively poor eyesight.
  • Hearing – The child may experience deafness or partial deafness.
  • Hip issues – The child may experience pain or issues with their hips and may require corrective surgery.
  • Learning – The child may struggle to keep up at school and may need extra help.

Severe Cerebral Palsy

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Unfortunately, children born with severe cerebral palsy will face some significant challenges with many requiring full time care for life. Those with severe cerebral palsy may suffer from one or more of the same symptoms as listed for mild CP plus:

  • Limbs – Children with severe cerebral palsy will usually be unable to use their arms and / or legs to some degree. In many cases, these children will be unable to walk and, in some instances, they may not have full use of their arms
  • Speech – A child with severe cerebral palsy may be unable to coordinate the mouth muscles and tongue, leaving them unable to speak – or to speak clearly enough to be understood.
  • Feeding – Many children with severe cerebral palsy will be unable to feed themselves and, in extreme cases, may need to be fed by tube.
  • Intellectual and learning – As well as physical disabilities, it’s common for children with CP to suffer severe learning difficulties and diminished intellectual ability.
  • Behavioural – Pain is often a factor for those with severe CP and this can present itself in antisocial behaviour which comes from frustration, and which will need to be managed with the help of a professional
  • Epilepsy – Between 30% and 50% of children with cerebral palsy will also suffer from epilepsy to a degree throughout their lives.
  • Bowel / bladder control – A great many children with severe CP are unable to control their bowel and bladder and will need to wear protection at all times.

Understanding what cerebral palsy is…

It will almost certainly come as a shock to discover that your child has cerebral palsy and you’ll no doubt need some time to process this. To begin with, it’s important to ascertain whether or not your child’s condition was caused by medical malpractice – and, if you suspect that this is the case, you should seek specialist legal advice immediately.

This is important as you may be entitled to financial compensation which will be essential in allowing you to pay for the equipment and care that your child might need.

You should also speak with your GP and / or local council to find out what help and resources may be available to you. Many parents also find it helpful to join a group such as the Cerebral Palsy Parents Information Group on Facebook as it can be useful to be able to connect with other parents who are going through the same experience as you are.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained medical professional. Be sure to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.