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Cerebral Palsy and Early Intervention

The earlier the cerebral palsy (CP) patient begins to get help, the better. It is best if a child with cerebral palsy begins various forms of treatment right after the diagnosis is made.

Early Warning Signs of Cerebral Palsy

Parents are often the first to notice the early warning signs of cerebral palsy. These usually occur before the child reaches the age of three years. They can occur at a much earlier age and include:

  • Developmental delays: Parents may become aware that their child is not reaching the regular milestones that other children reach at the same age. Such milestones include learning to roll over from front to back, being able to sit up instead of collapsing forward, crawling, smiling, walking, controlling the head when the child is on his or her stomach, reaching for objects or transferring them from hand to hand.
  • Continuing to walk on tip toes: children when held in an adult's lap often stand on their toes. By the time they are walking, however, the normal child should walk with their heels flat on the floor.
  • Hypertonia, which means increased muscle tone: the muscles are rigid and stiff. Tightness of the hips may make separating the baby's legs to diaper him difficult. Keeping the legs extended. Crossing the legs at the ankles. Kicking the legs together instead of alternately
  • Hypotonia, meaning low muscle tone: these children can seem floppy. When held, the arms and legs may hang by their sides. They also can have problems with breathing, speech, lethargy, laxity of joints, and poor reflexes.

Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy and Early Intervention

The earlier it is diagnosed, the sooner cerebral palsy treatment can begin. Early treatment means the child will be able to cope more easily with cerebral palsy. However, because CP stems from a brain injury that neither gets worse nor gets better, the extent, location and type of injury limit the chance of being "cured."

Diagnosis of CP is determined by noticing the previous early warning signs of the condition and visiting the doctor who can:

  • Test the child's reflexes and motor skills
  • Evaluate the child's medical history
  • Order different tests including computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasonography

Early diagnosis means that treatment can begin sooner to help the child learn to overcome difficulties to the greatest extent possible and learn techniques and use tools to make daily life easier, more enjoyable, and more productive.

Early intervention can include:

  • Physical therapy to loosen tight muscles
  • Occupational therapy to learn to use special devices to help the person with disability
  • Speech therapy
  • Drugs that can control seizures, alleviate pain, and relax muscle spasms
  • Surgery to correct abnormalities of the anatomy or release tight muscles
  • Dorsal rhizotomy for selected patients to reduce spasticity and ease movement, including walking in some patients
  • Braces and other orthotics
  • Wheelchairs and rolling walkers
  • Communication aids, including computers that have voice synthesizers

Contact our cerebral palsy lawyers to schedule a free consultation.