The challenges facing a child with cerebral palsy

Your child's pediatrician told you that your child suffers from cerebral palsy. Now you wonder what this means for your child and your family and how this happened. You love your child and want to provide him or her with the best life possible under the circumstances.

What is cerebral palsy?

The part of your child's brain that controls muscle tone and movement suffered some sort of trauma. The symptoms range from mild to severe depending on the extent of the damage. Cerebral palsy includes several different conditions, and your child might suffer from one of them:

1. Hemiparesis: The limbs on one side of the body suffer weakness. Controlling these limbs causes difficulty for your child.

2. Diplegia: Your child suffers from paralysis in both the arms and legs.

3. Spasticity or hypertonia: Your child suffers from increased muscle tone.

4. Hypotonia: Your child suffers from the opposite of spasticity or hypertonia, which means that his or her limbs are limp.

Also, your child more than likely understands what you say, but may experience difficulty in speaking and expressing him or herself.

What causes cerebral palsy?

Current research indicates that damage to the brain or malformation causes cerebral palsy. Researchers say the condition develops during pregnancy, but do not exclude the possibility of trauma during labor and delivery, even though they claim that birth trauma such as hypoxia (a lack of oxygen to the brain) rarely causes the condition. Premature birth increases the risk for a child, along with severe jaundice at the time of birth. The condition sometimes arises after some type of brain illness or injury during infancy.

Your pediatrician more than likely already told you that no cure exists for cerebral palsy. Certain treatments help with the symptoms, but, depending on the severity of your child's condition, he or she faces lifelong challenges.

What challenges could my child face?

Children with cerebral palsy could face one or more of the following challenges:

1. Shortening of the limbs could occur.

2. Seizures occur in one of every three sufferers.

3. Intellectual capacity ranges from mental retardation to normal intelligence.

4. Vision problems exist for three out of every four children with cerebral palsy.

5. Dental problems plague many children.

6. Joint problems are common due to muscle control issues and stiffening.

7. Hearing loss occurs in some children.

8. Awareness of the limbs on the affected side is compromised.

Your child might require medical and other care throughout his or her life. Treatments exist that may make your child's life more comfortable when facing some of the challenges. Physical therapy, tutoring and other nonmedical interventions might help give your child as normal a life as possible. However, the financial commitments needed could put additional stress on your family.

Getting to the root cause of your child's condition could reveal a way to help with the financial issues your family faces. If you suspect that your child's condition resulted from poor medical care during your pregnancy, labor or birth, you might benefit from discussing the situation with an attorney.

A review of your medical records during your pregnancy, labor and delivery should be done to determine whether any deficiencies in your case occurred. An undiagnosed infection, issues with monitoring during labor and delivery errors could explain your child's condition. If a medical professional who practices in obstetrics believes one or more mistakes occurred, you could file a medical malpractice claim seeking economic and noneconomic damages to help with your child's medical needs, as well as with other needs.

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